Avastin Before Breast Cancer Surgery Could Help Save Lives

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Still, the studies released Wednesday add to the growing research in so-called neoadjuvant therapies, the concept of giving heavy-hitting medications to early stage patients before surgery to shrink the tumor and stop its progression.

"The strategy is proving to be an important strategy," said Dr. Joseph Sparano, director of Breast Medical Oncology at Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, N.Y.

Studies released earlier this month found therapy agents such as Tykerb or Herceptin -- typically used for later stages of the disease when the tumor is considered inoperable -- downsized the tumor enough to perform surgery for women with HER2 positive breast cancer.

The current studies are among the first to suggest Avastin may benefit patients with triple negative breast cancer before surgery. But longer term studies may offer a better idea of how long a patient will survive post-surgery without disease, experts said.

"This is really a fascinating development. It will force us to reassess the criteria for advancing new drugs," said Dr. David Euhus, chairman in breast cancer surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. "It may also give [Avastin] a second chance in breast cancer."

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