Avastin shows promise in lung cancer trial

In collaboration with the Press Association

People with advanced lung cancer taking part in US clinical trials of bevacizumab (Avastin) - originally developed to treat bowel cancer - have shown a 20 per cent increase in survival times, researchers have said.

Non-small cell lung cancer patients given the drug had an average survival time of one year from diagnosis, against ten months among those not receiving it.

The drug was also free of the side-effects associated with conventional chemotherapy. Non-small cell lung cancer is normally diagnosed very late and is often difficult to treat.

"Twenty years ago, we thought no treatment could help patients with advanced lung cancer," said lead researcher Dr Joan Schiller of the University of Texas.

"Ten years ago, we found that chemotherapy could improve survival of these patients. Now, we are finding out that this very unique drug called Avastin can also help improve survival even more.

"Avastin is the first of this very exciting family of drugs to be approved for lung cancer, and there are several other drugs of this type under development which may prove to work even better."

Avastin is a member of a class of drugs known as anti-angiogenics, which choke the network of blood vessels that tumours use to steal the nutrients required to grow.

Because it is targeted at the network of rogue blood vessels, it leaves healthy tissue largely untouched, avoiding many of the side effects of radio and chemotherapies.

The research is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.