Women with advanced cervical cancer – the most common cancer afflicting young women – are to get the first officially approved new treatment for a decade.Trials show Avastin, which is used in several other cancers, gives women around four months’ extra life. The drug plus chemotherapy has now been licensed by European regulators.Patients will have access via the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) until it is considered for routine NHS use. It has been available in England via the CDF since last March pending licensing.Each year an estimated 600 women with advanced cervical cancer could benefit from Avastin, costing £3,370 for a month’s treatment.The drug’s use was accelerated by the US Food and Drug Administration which approved Avastin plus chemotherapy for advanced cervical cancer in August 2014.
Nearly 3,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the UK each year, and it kills around 1,000 women.Cervical cancer, which is cancer of the neck of the womb, is the most common cancer in women aged 35 and under.Avastin, which is also known as bevacizumab and widely used in patients with bowel cancer, is the first new treatment since the chemotherapy drug topotecan was approved in 2006.Dr Mary McCormack, Consultant Clinical Oncologist at University College Hospital, said ‘Cervical cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in younger women.‘For those women with metastatic disease (that has spread) or whose cancer recurs after surgery/chemoradiation there are very few treatment options. It is very welcome indeed that when Avastin is added to chemotherapy it prolongs survival by approximately four months.‘For a young mother sitting in front of you with small children, or indeed any patient with cancer, that length of time can be extremely important.’
Robert Music, chief executive of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said ‘This regulatory decision for Avastin is positive news. To date, prognosis for women who receive a late-stage diagnosis of cervical cancer has often been poor.‘Any additional time that can be provided through new drugs with limited impact on quality of life is extremely valuable to patients and their families.’Trial findings show Avastin combined with chemotherapy can extend the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer by 26 per cent compared with chemotherapy alone.The drug, made by Switzerland-based drug makers Roche, led to overall survival of 17 months compared to 13 months. Avastin works by blocking the blood supply to the tumour, starving it of oxygen and nutrients. An independent blood supply is critical for a tumour to grow beyond 2mm and spread to other parts of the body.