Ethics in Medicine

Genentech Tries New Tack on Shelved Breast Cancer Drug Avastin

Kristen Sparrow • April 19, 2012

Genentech Tries New Tack on Shelved Breast Cancer Drug Avastin

This is an article from the San Francisco Chronicle about “a new kind of study” Genentech is going to try with it’s discredited drug, Avastin. They will be looking for a DNA profile of patients who have responded to the drug. I bring this to my readers attention because it is an example of the sort of departure from the scientific method we’re seeing in medicine. Their evidence from this study would clearly be anecdotal, but since they have deep pockets, they may be able to find something useful there. But it also shows how individual patients who were successfully treated are recruited and interviewed by these companies to make the case for the drugs. We have to remember that these are anecdotal results from these individuals. If a patient had a positive result from homeopathy or laetrile, and stood before congress to plea for insurance coverage for that treatment, they would be laughed out of the theater. Controlled studies are in place for a reason, and we have to willing to accept their results for better or worse even though we’re surprised or skeptical as with PSA testing, or antibiotics.

Online study of Avastin breast cancer patients

Victoria Colliver
Saturday, April 14, 2012
South San Francisco’s Genentech has teamed up with personal genetics company 23andMe for a new kind of study – one that doesn’t require patients to find a clinical trial center or make frequent visits to a doctor’s office.
The Bay Area companies are initiating an online effort to recruit 1,000 patients with metastatic breast cancer who have taken Genentech’s Avastin, a drug that had its approval for breast cancer revoked last year over safety and efficacy concerns.
Genentech officials hope to find genetic markers in those patients that could identify who might respond better to the drug than others. They say the study is not necessarily designed to get the drug back on the market for breast cancer, but to figure out if Avastin helps certain types of breast cancer patients. Such research could ultimately lead to its reapproval…
Critics say the online study appears to be biased toward women who have done well on Avastin, but its sponsors say they’re simply trying to find common factors in a large group of patients that could be tested in more traditional clinical trials…
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked its approval of Avastin for breast cancer after studies showed the drug caused life-threatening side effects such as bleeding and heart failure. Studies also found it failed to help patients with metastatic breast cancer live longer…

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