Roche's Avastin could get a boost with Tecentriq's second lung cancer win this week

Roche's overall survival data follows positive progression-free survival results that came out in December. (Image: Roche)

Roche is back with more survival data for its Tecentriq-Avastin cocktail—and it’s more important survival data, too.

Sunday night, the Swiss drugmaker revealed that in a phase 3 trial, the two meds, combined with chemo, had beaten out an Avastin-chemo combo at prolonging lung cancer patients' lives. The trial, focused on previously untreated non-small-cell lung cancer patients, showed that the survival benefit extended across various subgroups, and it was seen in patients with tumors expressing varying levels of PD-L1.

The news follows Roche’s December announcement that Tecentriq, Avastin and chemo together had cut patients’ risk of disease worsening or death. And now, the Big Pharma will be taking the results to regulators in search of a new approval—and a new role for the older med Avastin.

Meanwhile, though, plenty of outstanding questions about the data remain—including how much Avastin actually brings to the table.

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And Roche still has plenty to prove if it wants to hang with Merck & Co., whose Keytruda already bears first-line approvals both solo and in tandem with chemo. Industry watchers are still waiting on more data from Roche that’ll give them a better idea of how a Tecentriq-chemo combo—sans Avastin—measures up to Merck’s Keytruda-chemo data. But that hasn’t stopped analysts from trying to draw comparisons while they wait.

“My conclusion: Roche’s I-O-chemo trends WORSE than Merck's I-O-chemo on [progression-free survival]. On [overall survival], Roche and Merck look roughly comparable,” Evercore ISI analyst Umer Raffat wrote in December, with Bernstein’s Tim Anderson adding that Merck’s chemo combo trial, “on its face ... undeniably looks better.”

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For Roche, it’s the second time in a week that the Basel-based company is trumpeting positive Tecentriq lung cancer data. Last Tuesday, it said that Tecentriq-plus-chemo had topped solo chemo at cutting the risk of disease worsening or death in previously untreated patients with squamous NSCLC.