New Hope for Cervical Cancer

Four thousand women in the U.S. will die and another 12 thousand will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year alone. While there's no cure, researchers are excited about a new therapy that could improve and even extend the lives of patients with recurring or advanced disease.
For Lisa McDevitt there's nothing better than hitting the road in her limited edition "warriors in pink" mustang.

"I actually had a woman follow me home and she wanted to know how much and I was like it's not for sale," Lisa McDevitt, cervical cancer patient, told Ivanhoe.

It's Lisa's reward for successfully battling and beating cervical cancer twice. Her doctor at the time said she wouldn't survive round two.

"She said you will be dead within six years. I really was just ready to die," Lisa said.

That's when Dr. Larry Kilgore asked her to join a clinical trial. It's for patients with advanced or recurrent cervical cancer. Researchers are testing a new therapy that combines the biologic drug Avastin with chemo.

"So, the chemotherapy kills the cancer cells and the biologic agent stops blood vessel growth so tumors can't grow.  It's a real, real advance," Larry C. Kilgore, MD,
Professor of Gynecologic Oncology and Division Director at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, Knoxville, told Ivanhoe. 

Results from the phase 3 trial showed patients who received Avastin and chemo lived an average of 17 months, compared to about 13 months for those treated with chemo alone.
As for Lisa, it's been two years since her last chemo.

"Yes, she is disease free. We will have to follow her to see, but so far so good," Dr. Kilgore said.

While Avastin is FDA approved for the treatment of some cancers, including colorectal and lung cancer, it's not currently approved for cervical cancer. You can still get the treatment, but your insurance company may not cover it and this treatment can cost thousands of dollars per month.

BACKGROUND: The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 12,340 new cervical cancer cases and 4,030 deaths from cervical cancer in the United States in 2013. Cervical cancer is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not necessarily have symptoms.  However, it can be detected with regular Pap tests, a procedure that scraps cells from the cervix to study under a microscope.  Most cervical cancer is caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV).  HPV is attained by having sexual relations with someone who has it.  However, there are many types of HPV, and not all types cause cervical cancer.  Some cause genital warts, and other types may not cause any symptoms at all. People can have HPV for years and not know they have it. HPV can stay dormant in the body, but it can also lead to cervical cancer years later.  For this reason, doctors recommend women to get regular Pap tests.  (Source: (Source:

SYMPTOMS:  Abnormal cervical cell changes rarely cause symptoms, but if those cell changes grow into cervical cancer, then symptoms could surface.  Symptoms can include vaginal discharge that is tinged with blood, painful sex, bleeding from the vagina that is not normal, or bleeding when something comes in contact with the cervix.  (Source:

PREVENTION:  The Pap test is the best way to find cervical cell changes that could lead to cancer.  Regular tests are usually accurate at showing cell changes before they turn into cancer. If a Pap test comes back abnormal, then it's important to follow up with a doctor to treat the abnormal cell changes.  People who are 26 or younger can get the HPV vaccine, which protects against two types of HPV that cause cervical cancer.  (Source:  

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  Patients with recurrent, advanced, or persistent cancer, who were not cured with standard treatment, now have another option.  In a large, randomized clinical trial, patients who received the drug Avastin (bevacizumab) lived 3.7 months longer than patients who did not receive the drug.  Patients who received the drug got a dose of 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight administered intravenously with their chemotherapy treatment.  They continued with this dose one day every three weeks until disease progression or unacceptable toxicity occurred.  Patients who just had the chemotherapy had an average survival of 13.3 months, while those who had chemotherapy combined with Avastin had a median survival of 17 months.  However, patients receiving Avastin experienced more side effects than those who did not.  Avastin's purpose is to block the blood supply that feeds the tumor.  Initially, the drug was approved for certain types of metastatic cancer in combination with chemotherapy and is designed to bind to and inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor (a protein that's critical in tumor blood vessel growth). (Source:


University Gynecologic Oncology

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