Drug trial shows positive results for elderly patients with bowel cancer

27 February 2013

A new trial involving Royal Marsden patients with advanced bowel cancer has shown the importance of treating people over the age of 70.

The Royal Marsden prides itself on ensuring our patients receive the very best in treatment and care, no matter their age, and the results of the Phase III AVEX trial prove that elderly patients with advanced bowel cancer can benefit from treatment to the same degree as younger ones.

The trial was led by Professor David Cunningham, Director of Clinical Research at The Royal Marsden and Head of the Gastrointestinal Unit, in conjunction with pharmaceutical company Roche. Results were presented at this year’s Gastrointestinal Cancer Symposium in San Francisco.

The results revealed that the drug Avastin, in combination with another drug capecitabine, can significantly extend the time people aged over 70 live without their previously untreated advanced bowel cancer worsening – by up to four months - compared to if they were treated with just capecitabine alone. What was also significant is that older patients were able to tolerate this treatment without experiencing any new side effects.

Professor Cunningham said: “Improving outcomes in older patients with cancer is a high priority for clinicians and the AVEX trial provides solid evidence that such trials are feasible and impact on patient care. The results of the AVEX trial show that in patients over the age of 70 who have advanced bowel cancer, chemotherapy with capecitabine and bevacizumab is a valuable treatment option which is well tolerated and can be administered as an outpatient.”

Avastin is already used for the treatment of the advanced stages of five common cancer types: colorectal cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer and ovarian cancer.

Colorectal cancer facts

  • 115 people a day are diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the UK
  • The disease is responsible for 16,000 deaths a year
  • It mostly affects people over the age of 65

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