Brain cancer survival improves after FDA approval of bevacizumab

Volume 2, Issue 4, 2013

Summary

Treatment strategies involving bevacizumab prolonged survival in patients with progressive glioblastoma.

Photograph showing Derek R. Johnson, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Cancer Center neuro-oncologist

Derek R. Johnson, M.D.

A new population study from Mayo Clinic suggests that patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive and deadly type of brain cancer, may live longer if they are treated with the drug bevacizumab. The findings were published in the July 18, 2013, online edition of the journal Cancer.

Bevacizumab is an angiogenesis inhibitor, a type of medication that slows the growth of new blood vessels that support tumor growth. The drug received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for the treatment of glioblastoma in 2009.

According to the Mayo Clinic study, patients who died in 2010 — after FDA approval of bevacizumab for the treatment of glioblastoma — had lived significantly longer than patients who died of the disease in 2008, prior to the approval of the drug for treatment of the disease.

"Earlier results from a large multicenter trial presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting in June 2013 showed no statistically significant increase in survival for patients who received bevacizumab and chemoradiation as part of their initial treatment compared to those who received chemoradiation alone," said Derek R. Johnson, M.D., the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center neuro-oncologist who led the population study. "Our study found that at the population level, treatment strategies involving bevacizumab prolonged survival in patients with progressive glioblastoma."

Dr. Johnson's team analyzed data on 5,607 adult patients from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database before and after the conditional approval of bevacizumab for the treatment of glioblastoma in 2009. Researchers studied survival in 1,715 patients with glioblastoma who died in 2006, 1,924 who died in 2008 and 1,968 who died in 2010.

"The difference in survival between 2008 and 2010 was highly significant and likely unrelated to any advancements in supportive care," Dr. Johnson said. "This study provides the strongest evidence to date that bevacizumab therapy improves survival in patients with glioblastoma. While the increase in median survival at the population level was only one to two months, this figure likely underestimates the survival benefit in the subpopulation patients who actually received bevacizumab for this highly aggressive tumor."

Watch a video of Dr. Johnson discussing this study.