Clinical Trial

Breast Cancer Research and Treatment

, Volume 130, Issue 1, pp 133-143

First online:

Final overall survival results and effect of prolonged (≥1 year) first-line bevacizumab-containing therapy for metastatic breast cancer in the ATHENA trial

  • Ian SmithAffiliated withBreast Unit, Royal Marsden HospitalThe Institute of Cancer Research Email author 
  • , Jean-Yves PiergaAffiliated withDepartment of Medical Oncology, Institut Curie, Université Paris Descartes
  • , Laura BiganzoliAffiliated withMedical Oncology Unit, Department of Oncology, Prato Hospital, Tuscany Cancer Institute
  • , Hernan Cortes-FunesAffiliated withOncology Department, Hospital Universitario 12 de Octubre
  • , Christoph ThomssenAffiliated withDepartment of Gynaecology, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
  • , Silvana SaracchiniAffiliated withSanta Maria Degli Angeli
  • , Bella NisenbaumAffiliated withMeir Hospital
  • , Ignacio PelaezAffiliated withHospital de Cabueñes
  • , Anja-Alexandra DuenneAffiliated withBreast Unit, Royal Marsden HospitalF. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd
    • , Kathleen I. PritchardAffiliated withBreast Unit, Royal Marsden HospitalSunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre and Department of Medicine, University of Toronto

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The ATHENA study expanded on the safety and efficacy data derived from first-line trials of bevacizumab combined with standard chemotherapy for locally recurrent/metastatic breast cancer (LR/mBC). In ATHENA, 2,264 patients received first-line bevacizumab-containing therapy in routine oncology practice. Overall survival (OS) data are now mature; additional analyses from this large data set can provide insights into treatment duration and the effect of prolonged bevacizumab exposure, where data are currently limited. Patients with HER2-negative LR/mBC received first-line bevacizumab with standard chemotherapy until disease progression, unacceptable toxicity, or physician/patient decision. We performed subgroup analyses on data from patients treated for ≥12 months and those who continued single-agent bevacizumab after stopping chemotherapy. After median follow-up of 20.1 months, median OS was 25.2 months (95% confidence interval [CI] 24.0–26.3 months) in the entire population. Median OS was 30.0 months (95% CI 28.5–32.7 months) in 1,205 patients who continued bevacizumab after discontinuation of chemotherapy and 18.4 months (95% CI 17.2–19.7 months) in 1,058 patients who discontinued bevacizumab before or at the same time as stopping chemotherapy. Bevacizumab treatment was continued for ≥12 months in 473 patients (21%). In most, bevacizumab was administered as monotherapy for extended periods after stopping chemotherapy. In the subgroup of patients treated for ≥12 months, the median time to onset of grade 3–5 adverse events was 5.0 months. There was no evidence that first onset of adverse events of special interest, except for proteinuria, was more common in later than earlier cycles. No relationship was detected between development of hypertension and OS. Findings from these analyses suggest that patients with LR/mBC can receive bevacizumab for prolonged periods without major toxicity or progression of disease. In the absence of progression, continuation of single-agent bevacizumab appears to be a reasonable approach, with minimal toxicity and the possibility of long-term disease control.


Angiogenesis Bevacizumab Duration First-line therapy Maintenance Metastatic breast cancer