NICE rebuffs Roche on Avastin for breast cancer

The U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) won't recommend Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab) when used in combination with taxane as a useful, cost-effective treatment option for people with breast cancer that has spread. The healthcare cost body detemined that the drug offers "limited and uncertain benefit for patients compared with existing treatments."

Roche has calculated that the total average cost of treating a patient with Avastin plus chemotherapy exceeds $52,000, according to Reuters.

"Unfortunately, we did not receive any evidence from the manufacturer to show that bevacizumab can significantly lengthen a patient's life or, importantly, offer a better quality of life than existing treatments," NICE Chief Executive Andrew Dillon says in a statement. "Although the data seemed to show that the drug may slow the growth and spread of the cancer, the size of this effect varied between studies. Furthermore, it was extremely unclear that the benefits in terms of slowing tumour growth translated into benefits on overall survival, which is what really matters for patients."

He adds that the body is aware the FDA and EMA are reconsidering the drug's licence as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer. "If either...announce changes to their licensing decision, which affects our advice to the NHS, we amend it accordingly," he warns.

The decision is no great surprise, as Reuters notes, as Avastin has already been rejected for bowel cancer. But the negative comments will highlight uncertainty about its use elsewhere.

On Monday, Bloomberg reported Avastin failed to prolong survival in a trial of patients newly diagnosed with brain cancer. Patients given Avastin combined with radiotherapy and Merck's Temodar brain cancer drug lived for 19.6 months, according to the study results published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This number compares with a life extension of 21.1 months in patients given only the other two therapies in another study.

- get the NICE statement
- check out Reuters' coverage
- read the Bloomberg report