Roche touts more Tecentriq-plus-Avastin data, this time in kidney cancer

Roche's immuno-oncology therapy Tecentriq is competing with Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo and Merck & Co.'s Keytruda.

Roche wants to make its immunotherapy Tecentriq and older blockbuster Avastin into a cancer-fighting dynamic duo. And now, it has new data showing the pair beat Pfizer's standard therapy Sutent at holding off kidney cancer in previously untreated patients.

In the phase 3 IMmotion151 study, which focused on patients with inoperable, previously untreated kidney cancer, the Swiss drugmaker's PD-L1 immunotherapy Tecentriq paired with Avastin, an anti-VEGF antibody from Roche's blockbuster stable. The pair hit one of the study's primary goals by besting Sutent at cutting the risk of patients' disease worsening or death by a "statistically significant and clinically meaningful" amount in patients who tested positive for that biomarker.

RELATED: Can Roche's Tecentriq leapfrog rival meds in lung cancer? Jury's still out

That was the extent of the announcement; no detailed data will be forthcoming until next year. The data for the other co-primary endpoint, overall survival, isn't yet mature. But Roche CMO Sandra Horning, M.D., said the company is "encouraged by these results as they add to the emerging body of evidence that supports our rationale for this combination."

The announcement comes just about a week after Roche announced that Tecentriq, Avastin and chemo together delivered better results in previously untreated lung cancer patients than Avastin and chemo combined. The three-drug combo reduced the risk of disease worsening or death by 38% compared with Avastin and chemo, and those who received Tecentriq went a median 8.3 months before their disease worsened, compared with 6.8 months in the group that didn't.

It also follows results earlier this year from rival Bristol-Myers Squibb, which teamed its PD-1 immunotherapy Opdivo with another immuno-oncology treatment in its own portfolio, Yervoy, to challenge Sutent. Though the combo didn't fully hit its goals for progression-free survival, it did show it could prolong the lives of study patients facing a poor prognosis. The risk of death dropped by 37% for those patients treated with the BMS drugs, when compared with Sutent.

RELATED: Bristol-Myers' Opdivo-Yervoy cocktail slashes kidney cancer death risk by 37%

Bristol-Myers is trying to advance its Opdivo-plus-Yervoy pairing in a variety of cancers, including lung cancer—just as Roche is with its own duo. But that overall survival benefit delivered by Opdivo-plus-Yervoy in the kidney cancer study "places a high hurdle for Tecentriq plus Avastin, particularly in intermediate- and poor-risk patients," Leerink analyst Seamus Fernandez wrote in a Monday note.

Bristol-Myers was prepping to file for FDA approval for its Opdivo-Yervoy pairing in first-line kidney cancer, after presenting that Checkmate-214 data at this year's European Society for Medical Oncology meeting in Madrid. Roche now says it's aiming to do the same thing shortly.

"We believe that the regimen of Tecentriq and Avastin may enhance the potential of the immune system in the initial treatment of advanced kidney cancer,” Horning said in a statement. “We will discuss these data with health authorities globally and hope to bring this combination forward as a potential new treatment option as soon as possible.’’