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Results of a large phase 3 clinical trial sponsored by the National Cancer Institute showed that lung cancer patients taking bevacizumab (Avastin) in conjunction with standard chemotherapy live about 2 months longer than those patients not taking the drug. Researchers with the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group studied 878 patients with advanced, nonsquamous, non-small cell lung cancer who had never taken chemotherapy. Some patients received the chemotherapy drugs paclitaxel and carboplatin, and other patients received chemotherapy plus Avastin. The patients in the Avastin group lived 12.5 months, compared with 10.2 months for those in the chemotherapy-alone group. A serious side effect of Avastin was severe bleeding in the lungs, common among patients with squamous-cell lung cancer. Therefore, patients with that type of cancer were excluded from the study. This targeted-therapy drug works by blocking the blood supply of a tumor, which would enable it to keep growing and spreading. There are other targeted-therapy drugs for lung cancer, but they do not work in concert with chemotherapy the way Avastin does. They are used only when chemotherapy is no longer working.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.