Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Breast Cancer Update: July 1

Today in breast cancer news, we'll wrap up the week's big story by looking at what's next for Avastin. We'll also look at a UK decision to deny cost coverage for Tykerb or Herceptin plus hormone therapy for some metastatic patients and surgical scar treatment and prevention advice.

What's next for Avastin?

There's been a great deal of activity on the Avastin (bevacizumab) news page this week. Earlier this week, an FDA advisory panel held hearings on the risks and benefits of Avastin for metastatic breast cancer. In the end, the panel voted 6-0 against the use of Avastin for breast cancer. The FDA Commissioner will make the final decision, which will likely follow the panel's recommendation.

So, what's next for Avastin?

First, because Avastin will still be available for other cancers, doctors may continue to prescribe it off-label for metastatic breast cancer. At a cost of about $8,000 a month, the real question is if insurance will continue to pay.

According to the New York Times, Medicare will continue to cover Avastin for metastatic breast cancer even if the FDA revokes approval. This may eventually change, but such a change in policy "would take at least a year and involve public input." Representatives from several private insurance companies indicated that they would review coverage after the FDA final decision. A UnitedHealthcare representative told the New York Times that it would continue to base chemotherapy coverage on National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) guidelines.

A Reuters story noted that Roche is "undeterred" and is planning another breast cancer trial for early 2012. The new trial will include a biomarker to try to identify which patients may benefit from Avastin.

Both the New York Times and Reuters mentioned that Europe expanded its approval for Avastin for breast cancer to allow it to be combined with a second type of chemotherapy, Xeloda (capecitabine). Avastin "can be used for breast cancer in more than 80 countries."

UK won't pay for Tykerb or Herceptin plus hormone therapy for some patients

In foreign regulatory news, Bloomberg reports that the UK National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has denied cost coverage for Tykerb (lapatinib) or Herceptin (trastuzumab) in combination with aromatase inhibitor therapy for older, HER2 positive, metastatic patients. Unlike the recent Avastin hearing, the UK decision was based on a cost/benefit analysis. Both Tykerb and Herceptin have previously been approved in the UK for use in "certain other patients."

Breast cancer surgical scar prevention and treatment

According to a recent Cure Today article, surgical scars "can be managed and minimized." Breast surgeries, such as breast conserving surgery (lumpectomy) and mastectomy, are "associated with a high incidence of scarring." The International Advisory Panel on Scar Management recommends silicone gel sheeting be used as the "first-line preventative measure" for the first month after surgery. For more severe cases, intralesional corticosteroid injections are recommended as second-line treatment. Pressure wrapping may also be an option. In some cases, surgical excision may be necessary.

Please check back on Monday for more breast cancer news updates from You may find all the news and research on any breast cancer test or treatment option, including complementary therapies on our website anytime.

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