Bevacizumab and Cetuximab New Cancer Drug Breakthrough



Approximately, 12,340 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed, and 4,030 women will die of the disease in the U.S. in 2013, according to The American Cancer Society.

Cervical cancer used to be the most common cause of cancer deaths but between 1955 and 1992, the cancer rate declined by 70 percent, thanks to the increase use of Pap Smear and the never-ending research for the cervical cancer cure. Today, Bevacizumab and Cetuximab new cancer drug breakthrough will give hope to thousands of women suffering from cancer.

Adding Bevacizumab to chemotherapy

In June 2, 2013, a study was presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting about adding Bevacizumab (Avastin) to chemotherapy to help women with cervical cancer live longer than standard treatment. According to Dr. Krishnansu S. Tewari professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California Irvine in Orange, California, the research included 452 women who were treated with two types of regimens – half with chemotherapy only and the rest with chemotherapy and Bevacizumab. The randomized phase III trials conducted by the GOG (gynecology Oncology Group) compared the results and found that the average survival rate for patients treated with Bevacizumab and chemotherapy was 17.0 months, compared to 13.3 months with chemotherapy alone.

All the patients who were involved in the study have recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer. According to Dr Tewari, the study met the endpoint, which is to improve overall survival. It is a highly statistically significant because the Phase III expected a 12 to 16-month survival rate, but the result indicated 17.0 months. The CDC states that each year, 40,000 women die of cervical cancer. Dr Tewari adds that finally, we have a medicine that can help women live longer.

Cetuximab more effective than Bevacizumab

On the other hand, Merck KGaA’s announced that Cetuximab (Erbitux) cancer drug was more effective than Roche’s Bevacizumab (Avastin) in increasing the lives of patients with colorectal cancer. The results showed that the patients who received Cetuximab combined with Folfiri chemotherapy survived four months longer than the group treated with Bevacizumab. The test results presented at the American Society of Oncology last weekend showed the Cetuximab treatment resulted in a 28.7-month overall survival rate, and with Bevacizumab, only 25 months.

Comparing the Two Cancer Drugs

Bevacizumab (Avastin)

Bevacizumab is an anti-angiogenesis or monoclonal drug used for the treatment of metastatic colon cancer, and combined with standard chemotherapy. It is also used as treatment for non-squamous lung cancer, GBM, and metastatic renal cell carcinoma.

Bevacizumab’s side effects include seizure, fainting, headache, vision problems, exhaustion, and confusion.

Cetuximab (Erbitux)

Cetuximab is classified as a signal transduction inhibitor and monoclonal antibody. It is used for treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer that over expresses the epidermal growth receptor or EGFR. It is an approved treatment for squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck.

The side effects are temporary and may go away after the completion of treatment. Among the side effects are diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, headache, abdominal pain, poor appetite, difficulty sleeping, mouth sores, and itching.

Combining Bevacizumab and Cetuximab in Treating Colon Cancer

Combining the two drugs for treatment or previously untreated and metastatic colon cancer with chemotherapy, resulted in a shorter survival rate and worse quality of life, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

Metastatic Colorectal cancer means the cancer has already spread from the colon to other parts of the body. It remains the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. The treatment for this condition is a combination of standard chemotherapy and Bevacizumab. The drug slows down the growth of new blood vessels by impeding the VEGF protein and depriving the cancer cells of nutrients and oxygen.

Bevacizumab proved to be effective in increasing treatment outcomes in breast, colorectal and non-small cell lung cancer and is currently evaluated for treatment of other types of cancer.  Cetuximab, on the other hand, binds the protein receptor called EGFR, which is involved in replication and growth of cancer. Cetuximab targets the EGFR by reducing or delaying cancer cell activity. Studies confirm that the effectiveness of the drug is due to the mutation in a gene called KRAS. Since the two drugs work differently, some researchers want to test if combining them will be effective. The clinical trial enrolled 755 patients and assigned two groups that will receive chemotherapy plus Bevacizumab and the other group, a standard chemotherapy, Bevacizumab and Cetuximab.

The result of the combination of Bevacizumab and Cetuximab translated to worsened progression free survival and diminished quality of life. The survival rate for patients treated with chemotherapy and Bevacizumab is 10.9 months, while the combination of Bevacizumab, Cetuximab, and chemotherapy was 9.4 months. Apparently, for patients without KRAS mutations, the survival rate was similar in two treatment groups.

Written by: Janet Grace Ortigas

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