Bevacizumab, known under its trade name Avastin, represents a groundbreaking medication for combating cancer by inhibiting the formation of fresh blood vessels that could nourish a tumor. The FDA has granted approval for Avastin for glioblastoma (GBM) management among adult patients who have experienced cancer progression following prior treatment, which includes recurrent glioblastoma (rGBM).
Bevacizumab demonstrates its effectiveness in addressing various cancer types; nevertheless, its efficacy in treating brain tumors remains a subject of ongoing research and evaluation. Consequently, in certain countries such as the United Kingdom, it has not received licensing for the specific treatment of brain tumors due to this ongoing uncertainty.
What is Avastin?
Avastin for brain tumors serves as a tumor-starving therapy with its anti-angiogenic properties. Its primary objective is to inhibit a protein known as vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF. VEGF is produced by normal cells, but in some instances, cancer cells overproduce VEGF. By blocking VEGF, Avastin seeks to hinder the development of new blood vessels, encompassing both regular blood vessels and those that nourish tumors. In contrast to traditional chemotherapy, which directly targets cancer cells, Avastin’s purpose is to disrupt the blood supply that sustains the tumor’s growth, potentially halting its progression.
Its drug name, Bevacizumab, represents a category of cancer treatment referred to as ‘monoclonal antibody.’ Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic versions of the naturally occurring proteins, antibodies, that our immune system generates when it detects harmful substances. These antibodies function to neutralize or eliminate these harmful substances.
Researchers have harnessed this knowledge to engineer antibodies that can specifically target particular substances, often referred to as ‘markers,’ found on the surface of certain tumor cells. When numerous copies of these specific antibodies are produced, they are categorized as Monoclonal Antibodies (MABs).
How Does it Work?
Bevacizumab operates by binding to specific markers on the surface of tumor cells, thereby impeding the signaling pathways that facilitate cell growth and division.
The fundamental purpose of Bevacizumab is to obstruct a protein named VEGF, which stands for vascular endothelial growth factor. VEGF is produced by certain normal cells in the body, but some cancer cells tend to overproduce it.
When Bevacizumab effectively inhibits VEGF, it has the potential to halt or diminish the proliferation of tumor-feeding cells. This distinction sets this drug apart from conventional chemotherapy, as chemotherapy primarily targets the tumor itself, whereas Bevacizumab is engineered to thwart tumor growth by disrupting its blood supply.
Does Avastin Work for Brain Cancer or Tumors?
Learn if Avastin infusion for brain cancer is effective or now:
Initial research investigations showed encouraging outcomes in potentially arresting the growth of recurrent glioblastomas, specifically those glioblastomas (GBMs) that resurfaced following initial treatment.
In response to these findings, the United States granted expedited approval for the drug. Nevertheless, in Europe, there was a prevailing belief that the observed reduction in tumor size might be attributed to bevacizumab’s ability to alleviate swelling in and around the tumor, rather than an actual reduction in the tumor’s dimensions. Consequently, European countries, including the United Kingdom, have refrained from authorizing its utilization for the treatment of brain tumors.
Newly Diagnosed GBMs
In a substantial clinical trial involving Avastin for newly diagnosed glioblastoma, no notable enhancement in overall survival was observed.
While there was a minor improvement in ‘progression-free survival,’ signifying that symptoms did not deteriorate, the outcomes fell short of the predetermined target established before the trial. These findings have been corroborated by subsequent trials, affirming the initial trial’s results.
As it stands, the current body of evidence does not strongly support its use as a first-line treatment for newly diagnosed patients.
Other Types of Brain Tumors
Ongoing clinical trials are actively investigating the potential effectiveness of bevacizumab in the treatment of various other types of brain tumors. These trials encompass recurrent grade 2 and 3 gliomas, as well as grade 3 and 4 non-brainstem gliomas in pediatric patients.
Common Side Effects of Avastin
In clinical investigations involving diverse cancer types, certain individuals encountered a range of side effects, including:
- Elevated blood pressure
- Excessive protein in the urine
- Episodic nosebleeds
- Bleeding episodes
- Back discomfort
- Alteration in taste perception
- Dry skin
- Skin inflammation
- Nasal inflammation
- Excessively watery eyes
Possible Serious Side Effects
Different people react in different ways to Avastin treatment. So, it’s important to understand what side effects may happen. While some people might experience severe side effects, most do not. If you show any serious side effects, your doctor will stop the treatment. Make sure to contact your healthcare team if you notice any signs of these side effects.
Here are some potential side effects to watch out for:
- GI Perforation: This is when a hole forms in your stomach or intestines. You may feel abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or have a fever.
- Abnormal Body Passages (Fistulas): This is when there’s an irregular connection between different parts of your body. It can sometimes be very dangerous.
- Delayed Wound Healing: Sometimes, wounds from surgery may take a long time to heal or might not heal completely. Avastin should not be used for at least 28 days before or after surgery and until your surgical wounds are fully healed.
- Severe Bleeding: This includes vomiting or coughing up blood, bleeding in the stomach, brain, or spinal cord, nosebleeds, and vaginal bleeding. If you recently coughed up blood or had serious bleeding, be sure to tell your doctor.
- High Blood Pressure: Avastin can cause your blood pressure to spike, and it might affect your brain. Your blood pressure should be checked every 2 to 3 weeks while on Avastin and after you stop the treatment.
Kidney Problems: Sometimes, there can be too much protein in your urine, which can be fatal.
Knowing if Avastin is Effective for Glioblastoma for Efficient Treatment
Avastin or Bevacizumab, is a groundbreaking cancer treatment that holds promise for various types of cancers, including glioblastoma. While it has shown potential in certain cases, its efficacy in brain tumor treatment remains a subject of ongoing research. Patients should be aware of its potential side effects, ranging from common to serious, and the importance of monitoring and reporting any adverse reactions. For those facing brain tumors, especially newly diagnosed cases, it is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals to determine the most appropriate treatment options. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and work closely with your medical team to make informed decisions regarding your cancer treatment.