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Roche's Avastin can benefit children with type of brain cancer, study finds

The addition of Roche Holding AG's Avastin to standard treatment regimens could benefit children whose brain tumors had certain mutations, a study by London's Institute of Cancer Research, or ICR, found.

Findings from the ICR's international study support the genetic screening and personalized treatment of children with brain cancer, similar to the approach taken for adult patients, so that they are given the therapy that is most likely to work.

The study, involving 51 centers in 14 countries, found that children whose tumors had certain genetic mutations benefited from Avastin, or bevacizumab, alongside standard treatment. In these children, Avastin also appeared to boost immune response and destroy tumors, raising the possibility that they could be good candidates for future immunotherapy, ICR said.

"We will never see progress in treatment of children's brain cancers while we continue to lump everyone with these cancers together in one group," study leader and ICR professor Chris Jones said, citing the research that found children's brain cancer to be 10 different diseases. "We are building up evidence that genetic testing in children with cancer can have real benefits for selecting the best treatment."

While treatment of adult cancers is being increasingly guided by genetic testing, children's cancers continue to lag behind.

The researchers will now look to confirm the findings in a clinical trial set up specifically to test the effectiveness of Avastin in children with these mutations. If successful, it would open up a whole new treatment option for a disease with very few effective therapies.

Avastin, or bevacizumab, was granted full approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The drug is approved in the U.S. and elsewhere for a number of cancers including brain cancer, metastatic colorectal cancer, advanced nonsquamous non–small cell lung cancer and advanced cervical cancer.