Targeted therapy for cervical cancer
As researchers have learned more about the changes in cancer cells, they have been able to develop newer drugs that specifically target these changes. These targeted drugs work differently from standard chemotherapy (chemo) drugs and often have different side effects.
For tumors to grow, they must form new blood vessels to keep them nourished. This process is called angiogenesis. Some targeted drugs block this new blood vessel growth and are called angiogenesis inhibitors.
Bevacizumab (Avastin®) is an angiogenesis inhibitor that can be used to treat advanced cervical cancer. It is a monoclonal antibody (a man-made version of a specific immune system protein) that targets vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that helps new blood vessels to form.
This drug is often used with chemo for a time. Then if the cancer responds, the chemo may be stopped and the bevacizumab given by itself until the cancer starts growing again.
The possible side effects of this drug are different from (and may add to) those of chemotherapy drugs. Some of these effects can be serious and include problems with bleeding, blood clots, and wound healing. A rare but serious side effect is the formation of an abnormal connection (called a fistula) between the vagina and part of the colon or intestine.
This drug is also being studied as a part of the treatment for earlier stage disease.
Our document Targeted Therapy has more information about the different kinds of drugs considered targeted therapy.
Last Medical Review: 09/19/2014
Last Revised: 01/29/2016