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Oncologist. 2011;16(10):1435-9. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2011-0047. Epub 2011 Sep 23.

Discontinuing bevacizumab in patients with glioblastoma: an ethical analysis.

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Department of Pediatric Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


Glioblastoma (GBM) is a highly lethal malignant brain tumor that expresses proangiogenic factors, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Bevacizumab (AvastinĀ®; Genentech, Inc., South San Francisco, CA), a monoclonal antibody against VEGF, is routinely used in the U.S. to treat GBM patients whose tumors have progressed following initial therapy. The Ethics Advisory Committee at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute was asked to provide consultation on two cases involving patients with recurrent GBM who were receiving bevacizumab. Despite evidence of disease progression, family members advocated for the continued use of bevacizumab because of its mild toxicity profile and concern that discontinuation would impair quality of life. However, continuing bevacizumab in this setting posed physical and financial risks to the patients and raised ethical concerns about resource allocation and justice. We analyze the ethical questions regarding bevacizumab discontinuation in the setting of progressive GBM. We articulate the potential benefits and harms of continuing the drug and identify guiding principles for drug discontinuation that should be made transparent to patients and families. With the increasing availability of new, modestly toxic, expensive drugs for patients with advanced cancer, questions of when to stop these drugs will become increasingly relevant.

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