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Use of Expensive Cancer Drugs Questioned

July 7, 2008

By UPI.com

NEW YORK: The cancer medication Avastin has been called a wonder drug, but may be less effective than U.S. regulators believed when they approved it.   Made by Genentech, Avastin, or bevacizumab, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the use in patients with advanced lung, colon or breast cancer. It works by cutting off tumors’ blood supply, The New York Times (NYSE:NYT) reported Sunday.

 In 2004, the medication was approved for combination use with chemotherapy for metastatic colon cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. It was approved this year for treatment in breast cancer.

Costly Cancer Drug Offers Hope, but Also a Dilemma

July 7, 2008

By Gina Kolata and Andrew Pollack, New York Times

Looked at one way, Avastin, made by Genentech, is a wonder drug. Approved for patients with advanced lung, colon or breast cancer, it cuts off tumors’ blood supply, an idea that has tantalized science for decades. And despite its price, which can reach $100,000 a year, Avastin has become one of the most popular cancer drugs in the world, with sales last year of about $3.5 billion, $2.3 billion of that in the United States.

But there is another side to Avastin. Studies show the drug prolongs life by only a few months, if that. And some newer studies suggest the drug might be less effective against cancer than the Food and Drug Administration had understood when the agency approved its uses.

Breast cancer: How tumor cells break free and form metastases

July 5, 2008

By ScienceCentric.com

When tumour cells acquire the capacity to move around and invade other tissues, there is a risk of metastases and cancer treatment becomes more difficult.

At the Institut Curie, CNRS Director of Research Philippe Chavrier and his group have just discovered how breast cancer cells break the bonds that tether them to the tumour.

Breast Cancer Vaccines Look Promising

June 27, 2008

By Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay

Women with metastatic breast cancer who developed an immune response to an investigational vaccine lived twice as long as those who didn’t have an immune response, new research shows.

Primary tumors can drive the growth of distant cancers

June 17, 2008

By Cathleen Genova, Cell Press

Primary tumors can encourage the growth of stray cancer cells lurking elsewhere in the body that otherwise may not have amounted to much, according to a new study in the June 13 issue of the journal Cell, a publication of Cell Press. As people age, most may have such indolent cancer cells given the sheer number of cells in the body, although their rarity makes them impossible to detect, the researchers said.

The primary tumors under study, which were derived from human breast cancers, seem to “instigate” the growth of other cancers by mobilizing bone marrow cells, which then feed the secondary tumors’ growth, they report.

One key to the process is the secretion of a substance known as osteopontin by the instigating tumor, a finding that may have therapeutic implications. Indeed, the researchers noted that osteopontin is present at elevated levels in women with metastatic breast cancer, supporting the notion that the new findings may hold clinical significance.

Sites of Relapse in Breast Cancer May Require Biopsy to Accurately Determine HER2 or Hormone Status

June 12, 2008

By Cancerconsultants.com

Researchers from Canada reported that sites of relapse may have different molecular phentoypes than the primary tumor in breast cancer, and thus may require individual biopsies. However, further testing is necessary as the results presented were from a retrospective analysis of tumor samples. These results were recently reported at the 2008 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

Biopsies for breast cancer involve information including molecular phenotypes such as the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (HER2) status and hormone receptor status, to name a few. It has been assumed that sites of relapse possess the same molecular distinctions as primary tumors in breast cancer, and treatment options are derived under this consideration without biopsy of sites of relapse. However, a couple of small studies have indicated that in some patients, sites of relapse may actually display phenotypic molecular markers that differ from the primary tumor. As a result these sites of relapse may potentially benefit from different treatment than what is considered for the primary tumor.

Could New FDA Rules Curb Drug Profiteering?

June 9, 2008

By Martha Rosenberg, AlterNet

A GAO investigation has one drug industry insider squirming.

The “bully tactics” and “intimidation” of drug industry operatives could cause “thousands of additional cancer deaths,” cries an angry doctor in a May 29 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. 

But former FDA officer Mark O. Thornton, MD, MPH, PhD, is not talking about the lobbyists and reps embedded in doctors’ and lawmakers’ offices even as patients and constituents wait for access.

 He’s talking about Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee.

Lapatinib May Offer “No-Chemo” Option in Metastatic Breast Cancer

June 9, 2008

By Zosia Chustecka, Medscape Medical News

Several studies exploring the use of lapatinib (Tykerb, GlaxoSmithKline) in metastatic breast cancer have suggested that it offers an alternative to chemotherapy in this setting, both as monotherapy and in combination with other targeted therapies. One study explored the use of lapatinib alone, whereas others investigated combinations with trastuzumab (Herceptin, Genentech/Roche), with bevacizumab (Avastin, Genentech/Roche), and with the investigational agent pazopanib (under development by GlaxoSmithKline).

Molecular Phenotypes in Breast Cancer May Differ Between Primary Tumor and Sites of Recurrence

June 9, 2008

By Roxanne Nelson, Medscape Medical News

Among women with relapsed or metastatic breast cancer, the sites of cancer recurrence might have an estrogen-receptor (ER)/progesterone-receptor (PR) and/or HER2 status that is different than the primary tumor. Researchers here at the American Society of Clinical Oncology 44th Annual Meeting reported that a significant proportion (28%) of relapsed tumors had changes in either ER/PR or HER2-receptor status, and suggested that biopsies of relapsed sites should routinely be performed to determine optimal treatment options.

Investigative Eribulin Mesylate Demonstrates Activity in Heavily Pretreated Metastatic Breast Cancer Patients: Presented at ASCO

June 6, 2008

By Ed Susman, DocGuide.com

CHICAGO — Treatment with the investigative tubulin inhibitor eribulin mesylate helped heavily pretreated metastatic breast cancer patients achieve more than a 4-month progression-free survival.

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