The New York Times has been doing a series on the breast cancer medicine Avastin over the last few months. This is because the FDA was considering, and then deciding, to remove their approval for Avastin as a breast cancer treatment.
If you don’t have cancer, then you probably don’t know anything about Avastin. But if you do, you might know that Avastin is one of the newer, extremely expensive cancer drugs that have come out in the past decade. You know – one of the drugs that we have been PROMISED was coming because of the human genome project, all the money you call in during telethons, and the endless promises of anyone and everyone.
The way that Avastin is supposed to work is that it cuts off nourishment to a tumor by suspending the growth of blood vessels and other delivery systems which normally grow as the tumor does. The end result should be that the tumor starves and subsequently shrinks. Which sounds like a victory! But, weirdly, it’s not.
Even though the tumors might be smaller, Avastin was shown statistically to not prolong survival of breast cancer patients. Which means that cancer makes tumors – and just because you shrink the tumor, it doesn’t mean you shrink the cancer.
Which again puts the spotlight on exactly how little we understand about cancer.
The FDA decided earlier this year that it isn’t going to approve use for it any longer, which means it is unlikely to be covered by Medicare or insurance. Which is important. Because Avastin costs about $57,000 a year.
Yes, that’s 57,000 DOLLARS A YEAR.
That’s on top of whatever you’re already paying for chemo, radiation and everything else. Not an insignificant amount.
The point of this post is that if this is one of the futuristic miracle drugs that we’ve been waiting for over the last decade, then we’re in trouble. Because, not only is this drug insanely expensive, it doesn’t even work very well.
One more reason for us to turn off the cancer show. If this is the best we have to cure cancer, then we need to stop getting it.
photo courtesy of Bryan Chan