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COMUNICADO: 90% of Cancer Patients Completely Unaware of New

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Breakthrough Cancer Therapy Which Medical Experts Believe Could Reduce

http://www.europapress.es/europa2003/no ... 0327110343

ZURICH, Suisse, March 27 /PRNewswire/ --

-- Knowledge Gap of Concern to Both Physicians and Patient Groups

Nine out of ten patients battling cancer in Europe have never heard of a major breakthrough in cancer treatment, known as anti-angiogenesis, according to a new survey released today. Yet, 70% of cancer specialists who took part in the survey believe that patients and their carers should know more about anti-angiogenic treatment as it marks the dawn of a new era in cancer treatment. In fact, half of the cancer specialists surveyed even believed that the use of anti-angiogenic therapy could lead to cancer becoming a treatable illness people can live with, not the death sentence it so often is.

Anti-angiogenic therapy is a novel new therapy that works by starving the tumour of its blood supply to stop its growth. The first anti-angiogenic therapy, Avastin® (bevacizumab), was launched a year ago for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer, and is the only anti-angiogenic agent that has consistently demonstrated survival benefit in the three most common tumour types: colorectal cancer, breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Professor Nick Thatcher, Professor of Oncology, University of Manchester, Christie Hospital, UK, said: "We are entering a new era in the treatment of cancer with the advent of innovative new cancer therapies and it's important that patients and their medical advisors understand the potential of these new treatments to extend life."

The survey was conducted amongst 500 cancer specialists and patients in the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany. It revealed that patient awareness of new cancer treatments is low: 40 percent admitted to feeling completely uninformed about advances in technology which might help them overcome their disease. This knowledge gap is concerning to both patient groups and physicians, who feel it is important that cancer patients are up-to-date on the latest technologies that may help them in their fight against the disease.

Dr Jesme Baird, director of patient care at The Roy Castle Lung Foundation, part of the Global Lung Cancer Coalition, commented: "Statistics like these expose a major information gap between cancer patients and physicians regarding new advances in treatment, yet we know that people fighting cancer go through so much emotionally that they need to be able to believe in the future. The dialogue between patient and physician is critical in order to make an informed decision".

Access: Call for better care

The survey also showed that a majority of cancer specialists believe that access to new cancer therapies should be widened, particularly in light of physician and patient dissatisfaction with traditional chemotherapy agents.

"It is essential that we work with health authorities and regulators to ensure better access to these innovative new treatments," says Dr. Jesme Baird. "Cancer patients depend so much upon the development of new technology to offer hope of a better future, and we want them to live long enough to enjoy it. That means that new treatments must be made available to those who need it."

A recent report published by the Karolinska Institutet, in conjunction with the Stockholm School of Economics, exposed stark inequalities in patient access to cancer treatment across Europe. This research, titled "A pan-European comparison regarding patient access to cancer drugs", found that despite the proven benefits of new innovative treatments options, the speed at which patients can benefit from them depends to a great extent upon the country in which they live. The attitudinal findings in this survey support the Karolinska report results, further highlighting the physician and patient call to action to amend access guidelines.

Notes to Editors:

Survey highlights

-- The survey questioned 500 cancer specialists and patients across the UK, France, Spain, Italy and Germany and was sponsored by Roche,

-- Information about treatment

-- Two out of five cancer patients were not even sure what treatment they were currently receiving;

-- A third of patients said they would not actively seek additional treatment information following diagnosis.

-- Expectations from treatment in general and anti-angiogenic therapy specifically

-- 70 percent of physicians are dissatisfied with traditional chemotherapy drugs;

-- A majority of patients surveyed wished that their current treatment regimen helped them live longer without compromising their quality of life to as great a degree;

-- Only 11 percent of patients felt confident that their treatment would enable them to overcome their disease when they were first diagnosed; yet 100 percent of patients with advanced cancer being treated with anti-angiogenic therapy are optimistic about its potential benefits;

-- 60 percent of patients expected advances in treatment to transform cancer from an acute to a chronic condition within the next three to five years;

-- A large proportion of physicians surveyed believed that the widespread use of anti-angiogenesis therapy would result in cancer becoming a chronic condition - with which the patient could live;

-- A vast majority of physician respondents - 82 percent - firmly believed anti-angiogenic therapy could be effective in the adjuvant setting, in other words after surgery to enhance the benefits of chemotherapy. However, realising this expectation was likely to depend upon patient access to new therapies.

About Avastin

Avastin is the first treatment that inhibits angiogenesis - the growth of a network of blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to cancerous tissues. Avastin targets a naturally occurring protein called VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor), a key mediator of angiogenesis, thus choking off the blood supply that is essential for the growth of the tumour and its spread throughout the body (metastasis).

In Europe, Avastin is approved for first-line treatment of patients with metastatic carcinoma of the colon or rectum in combination with the chemotherapy regimens of intravenous 5-fluorouracil/folinic acid or intravenous 5-fluorouracil/folinic acid/irinotecan. Avastin received fast-track approval by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was launched in the US in February 2004.

In the pivotal Phase III study, the addition of Avastin to chemotherapy (irinotecan/5-fluorouracil/leucovorin) significantly extended survival by, on average, five months (20.3 months versus 15.6 months) for people with previously untreated metastatic colorectal cancer. Avastin also significantly increased the amount of time the cancer was not growing compared with patients receiving chemotherapy alone (10.6 months vs. 6.2 months). In a second Phase III study, conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), Avastin was also shown to significantly improve survival when added to another widely prescribed chemotherapy regimen (oxaliplatin/5-fluorouracil/leucovorin). With Avastin, people who had previously failed one chemotherapy regimen for their advanced disease, lived nearly two months longer, on average, compared to those who received chemotherapy alone (12.5 months vs. 10.7 months).

People with very advanced colorectal cancer who are too ill to tolerate traditional aggressive chemotherapy also benefit from Avastin. The addition of Avastin to a less aggressive form of chemotherapy increased the length of time the cancer was not growing, by four months, compared to chemotherapy alone (a 67 percent increase in progression-free survival).


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