New treatment extends survival of patients with advanced cervical cancer

  • An international study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, in which the Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) have participated, shows that administering bevacizumab in combination with chemotherapy in the first-line treatment of patients with recurrent and/or metastatic cervical cancer improves survival rates and reduces risk of death from this disease by 30%.
  • This treatment is the first to succeed in prolonging survival of these patients beyond 12 months.
  • Cervical cancer is the leading cause of death in young women in developing countries.

Barcelona, March 12, 2014 – The Vall d’Hebron University Hospital and the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) are, together with other Spanish hospitals that are also members of the Spanish Ovarian Cancer Research Group (GEICO), the only European research centers to have participated in an international Phase III clinical trial that has succeeded in extending survival of patients with recurrent and/or metastatic cervical cancer, as well as achieving a 30% reduction in the risk of death from this disease through the combination of chemotherapy and bevacizumab as first-line treatment. Bevacizumab is an antibody used in the treatment of cancer due to its capacity to inhibit tumor growth as well as prevent new blood vessels from forming from pre-existing vessels — a key process in the development of malignant tumors.

Up until now, the only remaining therapeutic option for patients with poor response to initial standard treatment (surgery in early stages and a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy in locally advanced stages), used to be conventional chemotherapy, with survival expectancy of approximately one year. Furthermore, such patients cannot receive several lines of treatment due to the advanced stage of their disease, meaning that the first line must therefore prove effective.

The study was conducted in a sample of 452 patients with cervical cancer across 164 centers in North America and Spain. All participating individuals either had cervical cancer that had persisted upon receiving standard treatment, or had recurred after the initial treatment. The study compared standard treatment consisting of chemotherapy with combinational therapy of the same chemotherapy plus bevacizumab. The results showed that the latter, used as first-line treatment, extends patients’ survival by 4 months compared to standard treatment (from 13.3 months to 17 months) and reduces the risk of death from the disease by 30%.

Ana Oaknin, Medical Oncologist of the Vall d´Hebron Univeristy Hospital and VHIO´s Head and Neck & Gynecological Tumors Group, who is also Principal Investigator of the study in Spain, says that “Up until we initiated the clinical trial in 2009, it was very difficult to extend survival of these patients beyond more than a year. We have however now managed to prolong survival of patients with advanced cervical cancer to 17 months by changing the standard treatment that they had previously been receiving”.

“It may seem like a very small step but it is actually a really important one since this type of cancer mainly affects young women between the ages of 30 and 40. We are enabling them to live longer while maintaining their quality of life”, she explains.

The study is led by the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG) in the USA, the largest gynecological cancer research group, of which the GEICO and VHIO (as a GEICO member center), are the only European partners taking part in the study. The next step is to obtain the approval of the relevant regulatory agencies so that this treatment regimen can be approved as a new standard treatment for patients with advanced cervical cancer.

The Vall d’Hebron University Hospital sees about 25 cases of advanced cervical cancer each year and is the reference center for this disease in Catalonia and Spain.

Cervical cancer: the leading cause of death in young women

In developed countries, the rates of cancer of the cervix (neck of the womb) have dropped dramatically thanks to screening using smear tests and human papillomavirus (HPV) testing. With the increase in vaccination against the papillomavirus, the number of cases is expected to continue to decrease. However, about 500,000 new cases of cervical cancer are still diagnosed each year at global level, leading to some 25,000 deaths. Unfortunately, 90% of these deaths occur in developing countries. While the rate of cervical cancer in Spain is very low (7.6 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants/year), in Latin America, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa where screening programs are non-existent and there are vulnerable populations with little or nonexistent access to medical care, the rate totals at 30-45 cases per 100,000 inhabitants/year.

Every year, this type of cancer represents the leading cause of death in young women throughout Latin America.

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For more information contact: Amanda Wren, Communication Manager, Vall d´Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO), Tel. +34 695207886, Email: awren@vhio.net.

 

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