Cancer chemo often administered off-label

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About 30 percent of cancer chemotherapies with no generic competition are being used off-label, to fight tumors that regulators at the FDA have never approved them to treat, a new study says.

Researchers led by Rena Conti, an assistant professor of health policy and economics at the University of Chicago, analyzed 2010 data from a national prescription database to see how the drugs were being used. The chemotherapies they scrutinized include Avastin, approved to treat brain, colorectal, lung and kidney cancers, and Vidaza, used to treat blood disorders, among many others.

The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Conti says just because a drug was used off-label doesn t mean that s a bad thing. We don't know what the outcomes are. We can't make a judgment of whether the off-label use we document ¦ is appropriate or inappropriate, Conti told Reuters Health.

Dr. Nancy Keating, a cancer researcher who was not involved with the new study, added another perspective: "The tricky thing is patients with cancer and their doctors are looking for anything with a benefit. So I think they're sometimes willing to try things where there isn't as much data as you would like,"

ACSH s Dr. Josh Bloom agrees. He says many drugs that are used off-label are eventually approved for their initially underground treatment.