Cancer data questions Roche, Lilly drugs

The European Society of Clinical Oncology meeting has been a mixed bag for drugmakers. Some companies get good news, others, not so good. And some companies get both. Here's a roundup of the news on existing drugs:

  • Roche's lung cancer drug Tarceva racked up some impressive data in patients with the EGFR gene mutation. Patients with that type of tumor lived almost three times as long without disease progression when given Tarceva on top of standard chemo, compared with those on chemo alone. As Reuters points out, the study sets Tarceva up as a direct competitor to AstraZeneca's Iressa, which is expressly approved for EGFR-mutated disease. Article

  • In two head-scratchers, the Merck/Eli Lilly drug Erbitux failed as a first-line treatment for colon cancer in combination with a chemo regimen, known as FLOX, used primarily in Scandinavian countries, while Roche's Avastin showed no benefit for colon-cancer patients in a small Greek study. The companies said the new results contradict other trial data; scientists are trying to puzzle out the differences. Report

  • The Novartis drug Afinitor, now approved for advanced kidney cancer treatment, failed against a rare form of advanced neuroendocrine tumors. Novartis release | Item

  • An independent review of the benefit of Pfizer's Sutent in pancreatic cancer confirmed the original findings: that the drug delivers a clinically significant improvement in progression-free survival compared with placebo. Report