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New treatment access for women with advanced ovarian cancer

08 August, 2014

Australian women newly diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer (and who are considered at high risk of disease progression) now have affordable access to an additional treatment for their disease.

Avastin (bevacizumab), a biologic therapy that inhibits tumour growth, is now available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
 
Approximately 1,400 Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year, with almost three-in-four cases diagnosed in the advanced stages.
 
A significant unmet clinical need exists in ovarian cancer with only 43 per cent of women likely to survive five years following diagnosis; this compares to 89 per cent of women with breast cancer. For women diagnosed with stage IV advanced ovarian cancer, the survival rate drops to as low as six per cent.

Limited treatment choices
 
According to Melbourne gynaecological oncologist, Professor Michael Quinn, treatment choices for women with advanced ovarian cancer are very limited.
 
"The current approach to treating ovarian cancer – removing as much of the tumour as possible with surgery and chemotherapy – has been the standard treatment for more than 15 years," Professor Quinn said.
 
"Although survival rates for cancer overall have significantly improved, there has been no real change in survival rates for ovarian cancer in the past two decades," he said.
 
"Avastin provides an additional treatment option for women diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, who have historically had very few treatment options available," Professor Quinn said.

Reimbursed treatment
 
Patients who have advanced ovarian cancer and meet certain criteria will be eligible for reimbursed front-line (first line) treatment for initial and continuing treatment with Avastin in combination with chemotherapy. Patients should discuss PBS reimbursed treatment options with their clinician.
 
Some of the more common side effects associated with Avastin include raised blood pressure, diarrhoea, fatigue or weakness, abdominal pain and increased protein in the urine. The most serious potential side effects are bowel perforation and blood clots.
 
Ovarian cancer in Australia

The majority of the estimated 1,400 new diagnoses of ovarian cancer each year in Australia3 occur when the disease is already at an advanced stage.4 Failure to recognise symptoms can delay women visiting their doctor.

  • Symptoms can be misattributed to other conditions, yet early recognition and diagnosis results in a better prognosis. Detectable early symptoms, which should be discussed with a doctor, include:
  • Abdominal distension (bloating, increased abdominal size)
  • Pelvic and / or abdominal pain
  • Problems with eating (loss of appetite, feeling full quickly)
  • Frequent urination

 

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