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Erbitux betters Avastin in bowel cancer subgroup

Data backs Merck KGaA drug over Roche’s rival in RAS wild-type metastatic colorectal cancer
Erbitux - Merck KGaA

Merck KGaA has published data demonstrating its cancer drug Erbitux is potentially a more suitable choice of treatment than Roche's Avastin in certain patients with bowel cancer.

Merck Serono, the biopharma division of Merck, used the World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer (WCGC) to post early positive data from its FIRE-3 study, which was initiated to compare the two drugs in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC).

Previous FIRE-3 data posted by Merck Serono had demonstrated that there was no statistical difference between Erbitux (cetuximab) plus FOLFIRI chemotherapy and Avastin (bevacizumab) plus FOLFIRI chemotherapy in the overall mCRC population.

However, new data presented at the Congress suggests that Merck's drug may be superior in the subset of patients with RAS wild-type mCRC – a form of mCRC associated with a genetic mutation that is thought to count for 50 per cent of advanced / metastatic colorectal cancer cases.

The data showed that Erbitux had a significantly higher overall response rate in these patients, at 72.5 per cent compared to 55.5 per cent for Avastin.

There was a similar difference in the rate of rate of early tumour shrinkage; 69.2 per cent of Erbitux patients achieved this result compared to 47.4 per cent of Avastin patients. In addition, Erbitux recorded an improved median 'depth of response' – the maximum tumour per cent-shrinkage observed in a patient.

Prof Will Steward, head of cancer studies and molecular medicine at Leicester Royal Infirmary in the UK, said the data indicates “a correlation between early tumour shrinkage, depth of response and overall survival and may in part explain why we are seeing the overall survival benefit in the Erbitux over the bevacizumab arm in this RAS wild-type patient population”.

Article by
Thomas Meek

1st July 2014

From: Research, Sales

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