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Avastin disappoints against ovarian cancer

Avastin, the blockbuster drug that just lost approval for treating breast cancer, now looks disappointing against ovarian cancer, too. Two studies found it did not improve survival for most of these patients and kept their disease from worsening for only a few months, with more side effects.

The Genentech drug won approval in Europe last week for advanced ovarian cancer. But its maker has no immediate plans to seek the same approval in the United States. After talking with the Food and Drug Administration, “we do not believe the data will support approval’’ although no final decision has been made, said a spokeswoman for Genentech. Results of the studies are in today’s New England Journal of Medicine.

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In November, the FDA revoked Avastin’s approval for breast cancer because it did not meaningfully extend life and can have serious side effects. Without approval, doctors can prescribe the drug but insurers may not pay. Treatment with it can cost $100,000 a year.

Avastin can still be sold for some cancers.

One study involved nearly 1,900 women with advanced ovarian cancer given one of three treatment combinations. The time until the disease got worse was a median of 10 months in those given just chemotherapy; adding Avastin improved that by one to four months for the other groups.

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