Health Team

Drug lets brain cancer patients live longer

Posted May 11, 2009
Updated May 26, 2009

— A drug recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration could prolong the lives of the nearly 1,000 Americans diagnosed annually with malignant brain tumors, many of whom don't live more than six months.

Avastin approved for brain cancer therapy Avastin approved for brain cancer therapy

Michael Gressman realized something was wrong with him when he started feeling dizzy and having headaches while training for an Iron Man competition last year.

"My times were getting slower and slower, and at this time of training, I should be going faster and faster," Gressman said.

A computed tomography scan revealed that Gressman had a stage 4 glioblastoma brain tumor. Surgery removed 95 percent of the tumor, but his life expectancy was no more than a year.

Then Gressman joined a trial fro the drug Avastin at Duke University Hospital.

Some tumors, including glioblastomas, depend on a growth factor called VEGF, a protein that stimulates abnormal blood vessels that feed the tumor.

Avastin blocks VEGF – and shrinks brain tumors in more patients and for longer than ever seen in a clinical trial for a brain cancer drug.

"I think it's the largest advance in neuro-oncology in the treatment of brain tumors in the last 30 years," said Dr. James Vredenburgh, an oncologist with Duke.

Avastin had approval for use in some other cancers, but the FDA was concerned about the risk of bleeding for brain tumor patients. However, in the recent trials, bleeding has not been a problem.

"I've noticed a significant difference, and I've been very fortunate," Gressman said. "I've had very few side effects whatsoever."

Gressman has felt well enough to start training with his brother, Eric, for another Iron Man event in August.

Avastin costs about $26,000 for 20 minutes of intravenous treatment. FDA approval of the drug, though, could lead to more insurance companies helping to cover the costs.


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  • lb27608 May 14, 2009

    The cost estimate given in the story is either misstated or just inaccurate. The average cost for Avastin treatment is about $50,000 per YEAR:

  • stephaniedawn66 May 14, 2009

    its all about the money

  • For-Better-Or-Worse May 14, 2009

    I am amazed how STUPID people are to belief that "WHAT is really wrong here is the fact that cancer can be prevented and reversed by simply cutting out animal-source foods (meat, poultry, dairy), ALL processed foods, AND SUGAR."

  • face-in-the-crowd May 13, 2009

    It costs pharmaceutical companies hundreds of millions of dollars to develop a new drug. According to the article, it seems that the market for Avastin is very small. If you had such a brain tumor, wouldn't you rather pay $26,000 to extend your life than succumb to the tumor because no pharmaceutical company could find business justification to develop something like Avastin? Yes, $26K is a LOT, but how much are extra days, months and years worth?

  • CestLaVie May 12, 2009

    WHAT is really wrong here is the fact that cancer can be prevented and reversed by simply cutting out animal-source foods (meat, poultry, dairy), ALL processed foods, AND SUGAR.

    The medical and drug industries do NOT want you to know this; they'd rather you buy their services and drugs, which do NOT heal you or prevent cancer. Follow the money!!!!

    Why are millions upon millions of Americans still buying into this huge profit industry with their health and money???? THAT is why this drug costs $26,000 for 20 minutes!!!!!!!! I'm simply amazed at how stupid people are, even those who think they're smart.

  • Iwasasoldier4u May 12, 2009

    How can a drug cost $26,000, and only for a twenty minute treatment none the less? Also, why is it that there is always the dollar amount for something that can save someones life? Somehow that seems very wrong to me. Everyone has the right to live not just the rich or that is the way it is supposed to be.