Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 59 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 28-Feb-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 29-Feb-2004
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Information for patients: Questions and answers on Avastin (bevacizumab)

  1. What is Avastin (Bevacizumab), and how does it work?

  2. What are monoclonal antibodies?

  3. What are angiogenesis inhibitors?

  4. What is Avastin used to treat?

  5. Is Avastin a cure for metastatic colorectal cancer?

  6. How is Avastin given?

  7. What are the possible side effects of Avastin?

  8. Where can I find more information on Avastin and colorectal cancer?
     

1. What is Avastin (bevacizumab), and how does it work?

Avastin is a monoclonal antibody that works by attaching to and inhibiting the action of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in laboratory experiments. VEGF is a substance that binds to certain cells to stimulate new blood vessel formation.  When VEGF is bound to Avastin, it cannot stimulate the formation and growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis).  Avastin enhances the effects of chemotherapy, but does not appear to be effective when given alone in patients with colorectal cancer.

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2. What are monoclonal antibodies?

Antibodies are substances produced by the immune system in response to foreign substances such as bacteria, viruses or toxins).  They are the body’s natural defense mechanism against infection, as they help to destroy these foreign substances. Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies produced in a laboratory to target a very specific part of the foreign substance (antigen).  Because of their precision, it is expected that they may be more effective than standard chemotherapy with fewer side effects.

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3. What are angiogenesis inhibitors?

Angiogenesis inhibitors prevent the formation of new blood vessels, including those that surround and supply cancer cells, with the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive and grow.  By taking away the blood supply, angiogenesis inhibitors may reduce tumor cell growth and cause cancerous tumors to grow more slowly or to become smaller.

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4. What is Avastin used to treat?

Avastin is used to treat cancer of the colon or rectum that has spread to other parts of the body. Avastin is given along with the chemotherapy combination known as IFL. IFL consists of irinotecan, 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), and leucovorin.

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5. Is Avastin a cure for metastatic colorectal cancer?

No, Avastin will not cure metastatic colorectal cancer. In clinical trials there was longer survival and tumor control in patients who received the combination of IFL plus Avastin than among those who received IFL without Avastin. Overall, patients given Avastin survived about five months longer. In addition, the average time before tumors restarted growing or new tumors appeared was four months longer than patients who did not receive Avastin. 

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6. How is Avastin given?

Avastin is given intravenously (into a vein) every 14 days.

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7. What are the possible side effects of Avastin?

Serious side effects include:

  • holes in the colon requiring surgery to repair (gastrointestinal perforation)

  • impaired wound healing

  • bleeding leading to disability (stroke) or death (especially in lung cancer patients)

  • heart failure in certain patients (those given or receiving other anti-cancer treatments that may injure the heart muscle)
  • kidney damage

 Other more common side effects of Avastin treatment are:

  • high blood pressure

  • tiredness/weakness

  • clot in the vein (thrombophlebitis)

  • diarrhea

  • decreased white blood cells

  • headache

  • loss of appetite

  • mouth sores

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8. Where can I find more information on Avastin and colorectal cancer?


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