All eyes are on the FDA today as Genentech waits with baited breath for the agency's decision on Avastin for breast cancer. In December an advisory committee voted 5-4 against the therapy. Avastin in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb's Taxol delayed tumor growth much longer than Taxol alone. But the bad news was that the Avastin patients didn't live significantly longer, and suffered from more unpleasant side effects. Now it's up to the FDA to decide if slower tumor growth is enough to approve the drug if patients aren't living longer as a result. A positive decision could signify a new way of thinking about cancer treatments. If stopping tumor growth is enough for Avastin, then it could be enough for a host of other treatments currently in development.
Many breast cancer experts are eager to see the drug OK'd despite the committee's negative opinion. The FDA may break with the committee's recommendation, or simply delay it's decision until later this year. Avastin is Genentech's cash cow, bringing in $2.3 billion in sales last year.
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