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Experts Say No to Avastin for Breast Cancer

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Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab) is an antiangiogenesis targeted therapy medicine. Avastin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat advanced cancers of the lung, colon, and rectum.

Antiangiogenesis medicines choke off cancer cells' blood supply. Anti means "in opposition to," angio means "blood vessel," and genesis means "beginning."

Avastin has been studied in combination with chemotherapies such as Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) and Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine) to treat advanced breast cancer. Researchers also have studied Avastin in combination with Herceptin to treat advanced, HER2-positive breast cancer.

As part of the review process, the FDA asked a panel of experts whether Avastin should be approved to treat advanced breast cancer. Using information from clinical trials, the experts compared the benefits of Avastin to the risks of Avastin. Five of 9 experts said Avastin shouldn't be approved to treat advanced breast cancer.

The FDA will consider the panel's opinion when making a final decision on whether to approve Avastin to treat advanced breast cancer. The FDA doesn't have to follow the experts' advice, but it usually does so.

Avastin has a number of potentially serious side effects including high blood pressure, nose bleeds, and extra protein in the urine. Avastin also may increase the risk of stroke and heart problems.

If you're being treated for advanced breast cancer, your doctor may still recommend Avastin as part of your treatment plan. The experts on the FDA review panel made their decision based on the overall results in the clinical studies. Your doctor's recommendation will be based on information from published research and your doctor's experience with Avastin to treat other people with breast cancer, as well as YOUR unique situation.

Update: In February 2008, the FDA approved the use of Avastin in combination with paclitaxel to treat women diagnosed with HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer. The approval indicated that women who are to be treated with the Avastin-paclitaxel combination must not have received any other chemotherapy medicines to treat metastatic breast cancer. The medicine paclitaxel is sold commercially as Taxol and Abraxane.

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