Many women have been paying up to $4,000 a month for the treatment and this week its cost fell to just $36.90 as a result of a federal government subsidy.
Around 1,400 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each year and most cases are detected at an advanced stage.
Only 43 per cent of women diagnosed with the disease survive five years, compared to 89 per cent of breast cancer patients. Ovarian cancer is known as the silent killer because it often goes undetected until it is very advanced.
The medicine is delivered intravenously every three weeks and works by starving the tumour. It blocks a growth factor that helps cancerous tumours recruit blood vessels and grow.
Dr Goh, whose Australian patients took part in a British trial of the drug and who is a consultant to drug company Roche, says it’s the first new subsidised treatment for the cancer in 15 years.
It is given to women in combination with chemotherapy to start with and when chemotherapy is completed patients stay on Avastin for a maintenance period of 12 months.
Mother of two Wendy Jones was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October last year and commenced treatment with Avastin straight away as part of a clinical trial.
Her cancer count plummeted from 2,300 to just 16 as a result of her treatment with chemotherapy and Avastin.
The 44 year old Melbourne clerk said she was concerned she had a health problem in June last year but CAT scans, ultrasounds, a colonoscopy, a mammogram and blood tests found nothing.
She initially though she had a pulled stomach muscle or appendicitis but it was only after an ultrasound for a breast lump scare four months later the cancer was identified.
“It was most definitely a shock and I would urge anyone who thinks there is something wrong to persist, mine was stage four when it was picked up, I’m not sure what it would have been if it was picked up in June,” she said.
Side effects of the drug include perforation of the stomach, wounds that won’t heal, serious bleeding, the formation of an abnormal passage from one part of the body to another, strokes, blood clots, high blood pressure, nervous and kidney problems.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include abdominal bloating, pelvis or abdominal pain, loss of appetite and frequent urination.
Meanwhile, a new European study of over 160,000 men has found screening for prostate cancer could reduce deaths from the disease by about a fifth.
Despite this new evidence for prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing in reducing mortality, the authors say doubts about whether the benefits of screening outweigh the harms remain, and routine PSA screening programs should not be introduced at this time.