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Positive results halt Avastin-Tarceva trial

Published on 16/02/09 at 12:01pm

A phase III trial has been stopped early after promising results for Avastin and Tarceva combined as first-line maintenance treatment of lung cancer.

The ATLAS trial of Avastin and Tarceva together as maintenance therapy in first-line treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) was halted after interim data proved very promising.

Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab) is the leading new drug for NSCLC, and is used as a first-line treatment, combined with chemotherapy.

Tarceva (erlotinib) is currently only licensed as a second and third-line treatment, but Roche says introducing it earlier and combining it with Avastin as a maintenance helps fight the disease.

William Burns, head of the pharma division at Roche said: ATLAS is the second study to show that people with lung cancer who took the daily pill Tarceva following initial treatment lived longer without their cancer getting worse.

The results build on the strong data currently available for Avastin in first-line treatment and Tarceva in second-line therapy, and offer a new option to help extend the time these patients live without their disease progressing.

NSCLC accounts for about 80% of all lung cancers, and has a survival rate of less than 5% over five years.

The new treatments can only prolong lives of patients and not cure the cancer, but earlier diagnosis and earlier use of novel drugs are hoped to extend lives significantly.

Sales growth

Sales of Avastin and Tarceva both rocketed in 2008, as their use increases around the world. Earlier this month, Roche announced a 23% rise in annual sales of Tarceva to just over $1 billion last year, while Avastin -  which is licensed to treat four separate cancers - rose 37% to $4.5 billion.

The results of an Avastin trial in colon cancer patients who have had surgery to remove tumours are expected in mid-April.

 

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