High hopes for ovarian cancer drug

Women with advanced ovarian cancer may be offered hope by a drug that starves tumours of blood.

The antibody drug bevacizumab can delay progression of the cancer for several months, results from two trials have shown.

Overall survival, which is still being assessed by one of the studies, showed a “strong trend” towards improvement.

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Trial leader Dr Amit Oza, from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, said: “This is the first new drug in ovarian cancer in 15 years to improve outcome, and I believe it should be considered as a potential new standard of care.”

Ovarian cancer is often not discovered until an advanced stage. Each year, more than 6,500 women in the UK are diagnosed with the disease and more than 4,300 die from it. In 62 per cent of new cases, the cancer has started to spread and fewer than 27 per cent of patients can expect to live five years.

Bevacizumab, marketed as Avastin, is an approved treatment for a number of cancers. It works by preventing the growth of new blood vessels that feed tumours.

One seven-year study funded by the Medical Research Council enrolled 1,528 women from 263 centres in Canada and Europe.