Avastin Tied to High Blood Pressure, Gastrointestinal Bleeding Risks

avastin_blood_pressure_linkThe cancer medication, Avastin (bevacizumab), has been tied to increased episodes of hypertension (high blood pressure) and gastrointestinal bleeding, according to a recently published article.

The article appears online in the August 27, 2013 issue of the journal Clinical Drug Investigation. Investigators were looking into Avastin’s risks given that the drug is being used, more and more, to treat patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), according to AdverseEvents.com.

Avastin is used in the treatment of a variety of cancers, including mCRC, glioblastoma, metastatic kidney cancer, and advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer. Its breast cancer approval was revoked by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. The revocation was implemented because, while Avastin did prove effective in slowing the progression of tumors, it was associated with serious adverse events in this patient demographic, AdverseEvents.com reported.

Research reviewed existing trials from an array of databases to define adverse events in mCRC patients undergoing treatment with Avastin and revealed that 6,937 patients from 15 clinical trials were part of the analysis. Study authors discovered that patients treated with Avastin were at a statistically significantly increased risk of suffering from elevated blood pressure and gastrointestinal bleeding or perforation. The researchers concluded that medical professionals should exert caution when using Avastin in the treatment of cancer, according to AdverseEvents.com.

The research included FAERS data from November 1, 1997 to December 31, 2013 that was aggregated and standardized by the AdverseEvent RxFilter process. The team identified 78 cases of hypertension and 53 cases of gastrointestinal hemorrhage or perforation in patients with mCRC in which Avastin was listed as the primary suspect drug, wrote AdverseEvents.com.

Another recent study revealed that Avastin did not extend survival in patients with deadly brain masses. The Roche Holding AG medication offered no advantage as a first-line therapy against glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, according to Bloomberg News previously. Trials results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

Avastin is an injectable cancer medication that works by blocking a protein important for the formation of blood vessels. Tumors rely on blood vessels to receive the nutrients they need to survive; Avastin is believed to work by preventing the formation of new blood vessels that feed the tumor and is approved to treat brain, colorectal, lung, and kidney cancers.

Avastin was approved for metastatic breast cancer in February 2008 under the FDA’s accelerated approval program. But, two studies conducted by the drug’s maker later showed only a small effect on tumor growth without evidence that patients lived any longer or had a better quality of life compared to taking standard chemotherapy alone—not enough to outweigh the risk of taking the drug, the FDA had said.

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