Grossi, F., Brianti, A., Defferrari, C. et al. memo (2008) 1: 13. doi:10.1007/s12254-008-0005-6
Though chemotherapy remains a mainstay of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) treatment, its efficacy has probably reached a plateau. The management of advanced NSCLC has evolved considerably in recent years due to a progressive understanding of tumour biology and the identification of promising molecular targets. Bevacizumab is a monoclonal antibody targeting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a key signalling protein in tumour neoangiogenesis, growth and dissemination. The finding in study E4599 of a survival benefit for carboplatin-paclitaxel plus bevacizumab over chemotherapy alone led the U.S. FDA to approve the novel combination for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced, non-squamous NSCLC. This study is the first to show a survival advantage with the addition of a targeted agent to chemotherapy in this setting: in particular, for the first time the survival of NSCLC patients has been extended beyond one year. Recently, in a randomised phase III trial, patients receiving cisplatin-gemcitabine plus bevacizumab experienced a significantly longer progression-free survival compared to the standard arm. Based on these data, the EMEA has just issued a positive opinion to extend the drug's indication to include first-line treatment – in combination with any platinum-based chemotherapy – of advanced, non-squamous NSCLC. The aim of this review is to provide an overview of the evidence supporting the emergence of this new treatment. Key questions – including the optimal dose of bevacizumab, safety of the drug in special populations, the selection of patients most likely to benefit from the treatment, the role of maintenance – are addressed.