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In a study published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the results of a clinical trial of the drug bevacizumab to treat colon cancer in combination with the standard therapy found that the drug did not significantly increase disease-free survival in patients with stage II and stage III colon cancer.

Bevacizumab is an antibody that works to inhibit the growth of blood vessels. By slowing the growth of a network of blood vessels to a developing tumor, the drug can help slow or stop the uncontrolled cell growth that characterizes cancer. It is currently approved for use in treating the brain cancer glioblastoma, as well as certain types of metastatic breast, colorectal, lung and renal cell cancer.

Study co-author Richard M. Goldberg, MD, says, “Unfortunately, our research team did not find any improvement in disease-free survival when bevacizumab was used with the current state-of-the-art chemotherapy – 6 months of fluorouracil and oxaliplatin.”

The National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project trial analyzed more than 2600 patients over the course of almost three years. Patients were randomly assigned to the experimental or control arm of the trial and, overall, the two groups were comparable in terms of demographics and disease profile.

“While we saw a slight, transient effect in patients who were less than 15 months from their initial diagnosis and treatment, the long-term survival benefit was insignificant. Therefore we do not recommend the use of bevacizumab for this particular group of patients,” said Goldberg, who is associate director for clinical research at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Physician-in-Chief of the N.C. Cancer Hospital.

“It is disappointing when a treatment that clearly helps some patients does not work in another group, but we know that cancer is a diverse group of many diseases and these clinical trials help us further define those differences, helping us make progress toward more tailored therapies,” he added.

Other institutions involved in this multicenter trial include the University of Pittsburgh and Allegheny General Hospital, University of Florida and Florida Cancer Specialists, Helen F. Graham Cancer Center at Christiana Care, Newark, DE, Southeast Cancer Control Consortium – Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP), Goldsboro, NC, Atlanta Cancer Care Regional CCOP, Kaiser Permanente Northern California, All-Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group and Kaiser Permanente Midtown I in Denver, CO.

The research was supported by the Public Health Service, National Cancer Institute and Department of Health and Human Services.