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Avastin Tied to Holes in Gastrointestinal Tract

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Researchers at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York have confirmed that cancer patients treated with  Avastin are more likely to suffer gastrointestinal perforations – than those being treated with other drugs.  What’s more, such perforations are more likely to prove fatal when they occur  in people treated with Avastin.

The Stony Brook study involved 12,300 cancer patients in 17 clinical trial.  Of those patients, 6,490  took various doses of Avastin.  According to a report on WebMD, about 1% of Avastin patients developed holes in the gastrointestinal tract – twice the rate seen in patients not taking Avastin. 

The risk was highest in people treated with higher doses, as well as those whose cancer had spread, and in people suffering from colorectal or kidney cancers.  Also, of all of the patients in the study who developed such perforations, more Avastin patients (22%) died from the complication, compared to those taking another drug (18%), WebMD said.

Avastin was the first approved therapy designed to inhibit angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels develop and carry vital nutrients to a tumor. Avastin was approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2004 to treat metastatic colon cancer, and in 2006, the agency approved it as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Last year, the FDA also approved Avastin as a metastatic breast cancer treatment, and earlier this month, it was approved to treat glioblastoma multiforme, an incurable brain cancer.

Avastin already bears a Black Box warning on its label regarding its association with gastrointestinal perforations.

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