New breakthrough in treating ovarian cancer

A new drug developed by a subsidiary of Roche pharmaceuticals, Genentech, has significantly increased survival time in patients with untreated ovarian cancer. Genentech, located outside San Francisco, has announced plans to apply to the FDA to use the drug for treatment of ovarian cancer as well as cancers of the colon and prostate.

The drug called Avastin, has been developed to target a specific protein called vascular endothelial growth factor. The protein is present in the body as a response to invading viruses of abnormal cells. Drugs that target the specific proteins that respond to this type of illness have been proven effective in reducing the duration of the illness as well as reducing the negative side effects other drugs previously used for this cancer treatment. This gives the patient a better quality of life as well as a more comfortable recovery period.

Dr. Robert A. Burger, of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, has done a study of over 1,800 women with ovarian cancer. One third were given Avastin, one third, a placebo, and the other third, no treatment. Results have shown that the patients given Avastin remained in remission an average of five months longer than either control group. They also suffered less side effects, in general, than the group who received traditional cancer treatments for ovarian cancer. The Avastin patients did have some minor side effects as pain and gastrointestinal upset, but were far better than the control group received other chemotherapy.

This is an interesting, hopeful breakthrough for patients suffering from this devastating illness.

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