Targeted Therapies, such as Avastin and Tarceva

Advances in cancer treatment have seen the development of targeted therapies which are medicines that specifically identify and attack cancer cells without usually damaging normal cells. They can be an effective form of treatment for many cancers.

Roche has two targeted therapies available for the treatment of metastatic of advanced lung cancer:

Avastin

Certain types of metastatic or advanced lung cancer can be treated with a targeted therapy called Avastin (also known as bevacizumab).

Avastin works by stopping the development of new blood vessels which cancer cells need to grow and spread. This starves the tumour of the blood it needs to grow.

Avastin has shown positive results in clinical trials for people with advanced non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer when used in combination with chemotherapy.

A large clinical study has shown that when Avastin and chemotherapy are given to patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, they remained free of their disease (their tumours did not grow or spread) for longer, compared with those who received only chemotherapy.2

This study also showed that those who received Avastin lived on average 2 months longer than those who were not taking the medicine. Those on Avastin lived 12.3 months compared to 10.3 months for patients treated with chemotherapy alone.2

Avastin is not publicly funded in New Zealand so you have to pay for this medicine. It is not suitable for everyone and you should speak with your doctor about whether Avastin is right for you.

It’s important to note that the costs for are spread over time, so not all of it has to be paid immediately. Patients usually pay for each cycle as they go, meaning they only pay for treatment while they benefit from it.

You can find out more about Avastin, its benefits, its side-effects and its cost here.

Tarceva

Tarceva is a targeted therapy used in treatment of advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Tarceva only works in lung cancers that feature a certain protein that is present on the cancer cells, known as the EGFR protein. Tarceva works by attaching to the EGFR protein to turn off the signals that encourage the cancer cells to grow.

In people who have the specific protein called EGFR on their cancer cells, Tarceva is used:

  • Either before3 or after4 initial chemotherapy for people with a specific change in the EGFR protein; or
  • As a second treatment if initial treatment with chemotherapy has not worked.5

Studies have looked at how well Tarceva works. These studies have shown:

  • As a first-line treatment for advanced or metastatic (spreading) non-small cell lung cancer Patients had mutations (changes) in the EGFR receptor. In a clinical study comparing Tarceva with chemotherapy, Tarceva almost doubled the length of time patients lived without their disease getting worse (9.7 months compared to 5.4 months). ³
  • After previous treatment with chemotherapy (known as second or third line treatment)5 In a clinical study, 31% of people taking Tarceva were still alive one year after they started taking Tarceva, compared with 22% of those who received no treatment (placebo). In the same study, people taking Tarceva lived about two months longer than those who received no treatment (6.7 months compared to 4.7 months), increasing survival time by 43%.

Tarceva funding is restricted to people with locally advanced or metastatic non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer who have a specific mutation in the EGFR protein found on cancer cells. Tarceva is not funded for maintenance treatment.

Patients will only be eligible for funded Tarceva if they test positive for changes in their EGFR protein. Your doctor will be able to give you more information on EGFR testing.

It is not suitable for everyone and you should speak with your doctor about whether Tarceva is right for you.

All medicines have side effects. Sometimes they are serious, most of the time they are not.

You can find out more about Tarceva, its benefits and its side-effects here.



Avastin (bevacizumab), 100 mg/4mL and 400 mg/16 mL vials, is a Prescription Medicine used to treat metastatic (spreading) colorectal, kidney, breast, brain, lung, ovarian and cervical cancers. Avastin has risks and benefits. Ask your oncologist if Avastin is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your healthcare professional. For further information on Avastin, please talk to your health professional or visit www.medsafe.govt.nz for Avastin Consumer Medicine Information. Avastin is not funded by PHARMAC. You will need to pay the full cost of this medicine. A prescription charge and normal oncologist fees may apply.

Tarceva® (erlotinib), 150mg, 100mg and 25mg tablets, is a Prescription Medicine used for the treatment of advanced or metastatic (spreading) non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Tarceva can be given before or after initial chemotherapy if your cancer has specific mutations in a protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). It can also be given later on when chemotherapy has not worked. Tarceva has risks and benefits. Ask your doctor if Tarceva is right for you. Use strictly as directed. If symptoms continue or you have side effects, see your healthcare professional. For further information on Tarceva, please talk to your health professional or visit www.medsafe.govt.nz for Tarceva Consumer Medicine Information. Tarceva (150mg and 100mg tablets) is a funded medicine for patients with NSCLC who meet pre- defined criteria. A prescription charge and normal doctor’s fees apply.

References:

  1. Ministry of Health. 2015. Cancer: New registrations and deaths 2012. Wellington: Ministry of Health. Available from: http://www.health.govt.nz/publication/cancer-new-registrations-and-deaths-2012. Accessed February 2016.
  2. Sandler A, et al. N Engl J Med 2006;355:2542-2550
  3. Rosell R, et al. Lancet Oncol 2012;13:239-246
  4. Coudert B, et al. Ann Oncol 2012;23:388-394
  5. Shepherd FA, et al. N Engl J Med 2005;353:123-132