Advances in cancer treatment have seen the development of medicines known as targeted or biological therapies which can help to slow the growth of cancer cells.
Avastin is a targeted therapy which has been used in the treatment of people with a type of brain cancer known as recurrent glioblastoma or rGBM for short. It is also sometimes called high grade relapsed malignant glioma.
Avastin is registered for use in New Zealand, but it is not publicly funded which means you’ll have to pay for it.
You can find out more about Avastin on these pages. Avastin is not suitable for everyone, so it’s important that you speak with your doctor about whether this medication may be right for you.
On these pages you can learn more about:
- How Avastin Works
- How Avastin May Help You
- How is Avastin Given?
- The Side-Effects of Avastin
- The Cost of Avastin
- Roche’s Cost Share Programme for Avastin
- Talking to Your Doctor About Whether Avastin is Right for You
- Sources of Further Information.
Avastin (also known as bevacizumab) is used to treat people with recurrent glioblastoma. This means the tumour has returned after initial treatment and is aggressive and fast growing.
Avastin works by stopping the development of new blood vessels in the body which the cancer cells need to grow and spread. This starves the tumour of the blood it needs to grow.
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Studies have looked at the effectiveness of Avastin in people with recurrent glioblastomas. This research is ongoing and there’s still a lot more to discover.
A study has found that in some people with recurrent glioblastoma Avastin appears to slow tumour regrowth. Avastin also allowed some patients taking corticosteroids, (a type of medicine to reduce swelling and pressure in the brain) to reduce their dose or keep their dose stable. 1
However, results are not the same for everyone. You will need to speak to your doctor about whether Avastin is right for you.
Avastin is given as an IV infusion (a drip into a vein) at regular intervals, usually once every two weeks.
An infusion of Avastin generally takes around 90 minutes, but this can be reduced to 30 minutes depending on how well you tolerate the medicine.
Avastin is an effective treatment for patients with recurrent glioblastoma but it may have some unwanted side-effects in some people. Avastin works in a different way to chemotherapy so it has side-effects that are different to chemotherapy side-effects, such as hair loss.
All medicines can have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not. You may need medical treatment if you get some of the side-effects.
Ask your medical team to answer any questions you may have.
Because Avastin may be used with other medicines that treat recurrent glioblastoma, it may be difficult for your doctor to tell whether the side-effects are due to Avastin or due to the other medicines.
Your medical team is in the best position to help you manage any side-effects so be open with them about any symptoms you notice, whether you think they are caused by Avastin or not.
For a full list of Avastin side-effects, or if you want to find out more about Avastin related side-effects, please look at Before you are given Avastin, While you are receiving Avastin, and Side Effects sections in the Avastin Consumer Medicines Information.
Avastin is not publicly funded which means you will have to pay for this medicine. This is a big decision and will obviously have an impact on you and your loved ones.
You will want to make this decision with your friends and family and you may want to explore other funding options, such as health insurance or fundraising programmes.
The cost of Avastin treatment will depend on a number of factors and a private oncologist will need to advise you on this:
- The dose you require
- The type of cancer you have
- Your weight
- The number of infusions you receive (which will be determined by how well you tolerate the medicine).
You may also need to pay for other treatments such as chemotherapy. Your oncologist appointments and costs associated with administering the treatments will also need to be paid for.
The cost of Avastin may play a big part in whether or not you decide to have this treatment. Be sure to discuss all the pros and cons with your doctor.
Roche has a Cost Share Programme to help with the cost of Avastin for those who need it. This programme is designed to help reduce the cost of medicines which are not funded by the Government’s drug-buying agency, PHARMAC.
The Avastin Cost Share Programme provides two free cycles of Avastin and caps the total cost of Avastin at eight treatment cycles. This means that eight cycles of Avastin treatment is the maximum you will pay, even if you remain on treatment for longer.
It’s important to note that the costs for Avastin are spread over time, so not all of it has to be paid immediately. Patients usually pay for each cycle as they go, meaning they only pay for treatment while they benefit from it.
Remember, even if you make use of the Cost Share Programme, you will still have to pay for additional costs, such as specialist care, other chemotherapy treatments and administration of the infusion.
If you’d like more information on the Cost Share Programme, speak to your doctor. They can give you further details about the costs and eligibility.
Deciding whether to pay for treatment is a big decision and it’s one that requires careful thought.
Avastin is not a cure, but it may give you more time before your cancer grows and spreads. For many people, Avastin may be able to offer a few extra months and for others it may be able to offer more.
Speak with your doctor about your specific case and the pros and cons of taking Avastin.
If you’re not sure how to have this discussion with your doctor, we’ve developed a list of common questions which might help you. Have a look at these here.
Remember, Avastin is not right for everyone and your doctor will need to ask you a number of questions to see if it’s suitable for you.
If you’re considering Avastin and you want to want to know more about private providers, you can check out a list here.
If you’d like more information about Avastin, you can look at the following:
Avastin® (bevacizumab), 100 mg/4mL and 400 mg/16 mL vials, is a Prescription Medicine used to treat metastatic (spreading) colorectal, kidney, breast, brain, lung, ovarian and cervical cancers. Avastin has risks and benefits. Ask your oncologist if Avastin is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your healthcare professional. For further information on Avastin, please talk to your health professional or visit www.medsafe.govt.nz for Avastin Consumer Medicine Information. Avastin is not funded by PHARMAC. You will need to pay the full cost of this medicine. A prescription charge and normal oncologist fees may apply.
- Friedman HS, et al. J Clin Oncol 2009;27:4733-4740