Roche shows Tecentriq/Avastin combo helps liver cancer patients live longer
With an eye on a swelling Chinese market, Roche unveiled Phase III data showing a combination of Tecentriq, its immunotherapy, and Avastin could help patients with the most common form of liver cancer live longer than under the standard treatment, Bayer’s Nexavar.
In a trial of 501 unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma patients, Roche’s cocktail reduced the risk of death by 42% and the risk of cancer progression by 41% as compared to Nexavar. Enough Tecentriq patients have lived long enough that Roche couldn’t yet determine the median OS but those on Nexavar passed away after a median of 10.4 months.
Patients went 6.8 months without cancer progression in the Roche arm, compared with 4.3 months in the Nexavar control.
With FDA breakthrough status in the bag, the data will likely guide Roche toward the first frontline approval for HCC liver cancer since Nexavar was cleared 12 years ago. The Swiss giant has positioned the drug specifically toward the company’s growing Chinese market, citing figures that suggest the country sees 400,000 new liver cancer cases ever year – half of all global diagnoses. Around 90% of those diagnoses are for HCC.
As recently as 10 years ago, China was one in a long list of markets for the global pharmaceutical company, but it has since swelled to their second largest market after the US. They raked $4.5 billion in sales there in 2018.
The treatment is also a step in a growing effort to boost the effectiveness of immunotherapies by combining it with other drugs. Avastin slows the growth of new blood cells by inhibiting VEGF-A, and is theorized to boost the Tecentriq immunotherapy by normalizing the vascular system in the tumor microenvironment. (Abnormal vasculature in tumors appears to suppress the immune system.)
The combo is already approved alone or in triple combination with chemotherapy in forms of non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer.