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Blindness Can Be Prevented with Cancer Drug, Study Reveals

A cancer drug was revealed Friday as an effective and inexpensive treatment for preventing blindness.

Roche Holding AG's flagship cancer drug Avastin should be used regularly in countries whose health care budgets are strapped for cash, rather than the Swiss company’s more expensive eye drug Lucentis, researchers said.

Avastin, or bevacizumab, is not licensed for use in combating age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, but is nonetheless widely used for fighting blindness.

Like Roche's Lucentis, known as ranibizumab, Avastin is a monoclonal antibody — a protein created to bind to a molecule in a specific way.

Injected into the eye, both drugs slow leakage by blocking the receptor for a hormone called vascular endothelial growth factor.

Avastin "is now probably the most widely used agent to treat neovascular AMD, despite the subsequent licensing of ranibizumab, because of the low cost of treatment when it is used as an intraocular agent.

“This is particularly the case for developing countries, in which the high unit cost of ranibizumab over bevacizumab has limited its use after licensing," researchers wrote in an article published in the British Medical Journal.

Their conclusions, based on a small clinical trial conducted in the U.K. using 131 patients with a mean age of 81, support the routine use of bevacizumab in preventing blindness.

The study was not a head-to-head trial comparing Avastin with Lucentis, however.

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