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CHICAGO (CBS) – Desperate patients and their doctors have been battling a recommendation to revoke approval of the breast cancer drug Avastin.
The Food and Drug Administration might do just that by Friday, on the recommendation of the agency’s advisory board.
CBS 2′s Mary Kay Kleist has the story of one woman’s fight.
Pam McCabe, 41, said she is most worried about her youngest son. She has aggressive breast cancer and her last hope could be a drug she just started taking, called Avastin. It stops blood flow to tumors.
“I feel so much better,” McCabe said. But Avastin might not be available soon.
An FDA advisory panel has recommended that its approval be revoked, saying follow-up studies on women with advanced breast cancer show it’s not life-saving and the risks outweigh any potential benefits.
“Tell that to my boys when I die that … I couldn’t stay on something to help prolong my life,” McCabe said. “You explain that to them … why mom died too soon.”
More than 17,000 women a year take Avastin.
Dr. Lydia Usha, an oncologist at Rush University Medical Center, said that 80 percent of her patients have used the drug and it’s worked for about a third of them.
She said it’s hard to predict which women will be helped, but she hopes the FDA will let women who are currently taking Avastin continue treatment.
“If we see that her breast cancer is stable, I want, to keep her on this regimen for as long as it is working,” Usha said.
But if approval is pulled, doctors would still be able to use it – off label. But without insurance, it would be too expensive for most women, at a cost of more than $8,000 a month.
Priscilla Howard, 71, also takes Avastin as part of her breast cancer treatment.
“I’m angry about it,” she said.
Howard said that Avastin has given her another Christmas with her family. She’s taken it for two years and has petitioned the FDA to keep it.
“I should be dead. I’m not,” she said. “I’m still doing everything I want to do and being with my family.”
A spokesperson for the maker of Avastin said that women like Pam should have options and, while the drug might not be right for all patients with metastatic breast cancer, it shouldn’t be pulled.
The FDA decision is expected by Friday.