Addition of Avastin® to Tarceva® Does Not Appear to Improve Survival in Patients with Advanced Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer

According to the results of a Phase III clinical trial, treatment with Avastin® (bevacizumab) plus Tarceva® (erlotinib) did not result in better survival than treatment with Tarceva alone among patients with advanced non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose disease had progressed following platinum-based chemotherapy. These results were recently published in a press release by Genentech.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. The most common type of lung cancer, NSCLC, arises from the tissues of the lung. Current treatments are aimed to destroy tumor cells or prevent further tumor growth. Approaches to treatment include surgery, chemotherapy, biological therapies (such as monoclonal antibodies), and radiation.

Avastin and Tarceva are two agents targeted against specific proteins that are often found in cancer cells. The proteins are involved in the growth and spread of the cancer cells. When Avastin and Tarceva bind to these proteins, they prevent or reduce the excessive growth of cancer cells. These agents tend to be significantly better tolerated than standard chemotherapy agents. Researchers have speculated that the combination of agents targeting these two pathways may provide improved results compared with single agents just targeting one of these pathways in the treatment of cancer.

BeTa Lung is a global, multicenter, placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blinded Phase III study that enrolled 636 patients with advanced NSCLC. Patients must have experienced disease progression during or after standard first-line therapy. Patients were randomized to receive Tarceva in combination with Avastin or Tarceva in combination with placebo.

The primary endpoint in this study was improvement in overall survival, and this endpoint was not met. However, the combination of Avastin and Tarceva showed clear evidence of clinical activity, with improvements in progression-free survival (PFS) and response rate.

Research is ongoing to evaluate the use of Avastin and Tarceva in NSCLC. The ATLAS study is evaluating the combination of Avastin and Tarceva as a potential first-line maintenance therapy for patients with advanced NSCLC whose disease has not progressed following initial treatment with Avastin in combination with chemotherapy. Results are expected in 2009. In addition, the SATURN study is a Phase III trial evaluating single-agent Tarceva as a first-line maintenance therapy in NSCLC patients whose disease has not progressed following treatment with chemotherapy.

Reference: Genentech and OSI Pharmaceuticals Announce Topline Results from Phase III Study Evaluating the Combination of Avastin and Tarceva as Second-Line Treatment for Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Available at: Accessed October 2008.

Related News: Addition of Avastin® Superior to Chemotherapy Alone in Lung Cancer (10/15/2007)

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