Cervical cancer grows in the tissues of the lower part of the uterus known as the cervix. It commonly occurs when human papillomaviruses (HPV), a virus that spreads through sexual contact, cause cells to become cancerous. Although there are two licensed vaccines available to prevent many types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, the National Cancer Institute estimates that 12,360 American women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,020 will die from the disease in 2014.
Avastin works by interfering with the blood vessels that fuel the development of cancerous cells. The new indication for cervical cancer is approved for use in combination with chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and cisplatin or in combination with paclitaxel and topotecan.
“Avastin is the first drug approved for patients with late-stage cervical cancer since the 2006 approval of topotecan with cisplatin,” said Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “It is also the first biologic agent approved for patients with late-stage cervical cancer and was approved in less than four months under the FDA’s priority review program, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to making promising therapies available to patients faster.”
The FDA reviewed Avastin for treatment of patients with cervical cancer under its priority review program because the drug demonstrated the potential to be a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness over available therapy in the treatment of a serious condition. Priority review provides an expedited review of a drug’s application.
The safety and effectiveness of Avastin for treatment of patients with cervical cancer was evaluated in a clinical study involving 452 participants with persistent, recurrent, or late-stage disease. Participants were randomly assigned to receive paclitaxel and cisplatin with or without Avastin or paclitaxel and topotecan with or without Avastin. Results showed an increase in overall survival to 16.8 months in participants who received chemotherapy in combination with Avastin as compared to 12.9 months for those receiving chemotherapy alone.
The most common side effects associated with use of Avastin in patients with cervical cancer include fatigue, decreased appetite, high blood pressure (hypertension), increased glucose in the blood (hyperglycemia), decreased magnesium in the blood (hypomagnesemia), urinary tract infection, headache and decreased weight. Perforations of the gastrointestinal tract and abnormal openings between the gastrointestinal tract and vagina (enterovaginal fistula) also were observed in Avastin-treated patients.
Avastin is marketed by South San Francisco, California-based Genentech, a member of the Roche Group.