In a controversial move, the FDA has approved Avastin for breast cancer. The drug is already used in lung and colon cancer. For the FDA to approve a late stage cancer drug it needs to either extend patient’s lives or import the quality of life. Avastin has shown neither and so the advisory committe recommended against its use in breast cancer. The FDA went against the recommendation of its advisory committee. The drug does shrink tumors effectively, but there is a debate if that alone is reason to approve a drug.
If you still die in the same amount of time in the same painful way was having smaller tumors worth whatever adverse effects or side effects come from the medicine? There are pros and cons to the decision. The pros are the approval will stimulate even more research and development into tumor shrinking medicines. The decision will also be good for business, stimulating development and growth. But there are also cons. First there is the obvious problem if a drug does not extend life or improve quality of life what is the purpose. Tumor shrinking is important, but only as a part of the overall picture of improving health. But what I find to be a more glaring problem is, the advisory committees are designed to have more knowledge and to have looked at a topic more carefully to give the FDA an intelligent recommendation. Why have them if you don’t listen to the recommendation? I think that sets bad precedent.
Hopefully the next large study of Avastin will show marked improvement in combination with other drugs in the treatment of breast cancer.