Block buster cancer drug Avastin gives hope to brain tumor victims

According to a new study the blockbuster cancer drug Avastin has shown promising results in treating brain cancer victims.

In a phase II clinical trial Avastin extended the survival rate of patients with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).

Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and aggressive type of primary brain tumor, and accounts for 52% of all primary brain tumor cases and 20% of all intracranial tumors.

Despite being the most prevalent form of primary brain tumor, GBM's occur at only 2-3 cases per 100,000 people in Europe and North America.

Treatment usually involves chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, all of which are palliative measures and do not provide a cure.

Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, who was the lead investigator for the study, says research has shown that only 15 percent of patients with this aggressive type of brain cancer live without their cancer progressing within six months.

The five year survival rate of the disease has remained unchanged over the past 30 years and even after complete surgical resection of the tumor, combined with the best available treatment, the survival rate for GBM remains very low at less than three percent.

The study found that 36 percent of patients treated with Avastin alone and 51 percent treated with a combination of the drug and chemotherapy lived without the disease advancing within six months.

The researchers say more patients had lived without their cancer advancing than would normally be expected.

The Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. (FDA) has approved Avastin for use in patients with colon and lung tumors.

It is estimated that 20,000 cases of brain cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, resulting in more than 12,000 deaths.

The drug is manufactured by Genentech Inc, and in 2006, it had $1.75 billion in sales.

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