Roche swings and misses with another Tecentriq-chemo combo in tough-to-treat breast cancer

Roche's Tecentriq won a TNBC approval last March. (Roche)

Last year, Roche’s Tecentriq became the first immuno-oncology treatment approved in triple negative breast cancer after it showed it could stall cancer progression in combination with Celgene’s Abraxane. But the PD-L1 blocker didn't repeat that success in tandem with a different chemo med, paclitaxel.

Adding Tecentriq to paclitaxel didn’t help keep disease at bay in previously untreated, PD-L1 positive patients with metastatic TNBC, Roche said Thursday. The Swiss drugmaker plans to unveil details of the misfire at a future medical meeting, and in the meantime, “the insights will… be used to inform existing and future studies” of Tecentriq-paclitaxel in TNBC, it said.

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While the failed trial, dubbed IMpassion131, left the company “disappointed,” it won’t keep Roche out of the market; Tecentriq already bears a green light paired with Abraxane—a form of paclitaxel containing the protein albumin—in the same population after winning FDA clearance last March. Regulators based their decision on results from the IMpassion130 study, which showed that pairing Tecentriq and Abraxane could pare down the risk of disease worsening or death by 20%.

“Today’s results underscore the need to better understand the cancer and immune system interactions, including the chemotherapy backbone and associated regimens. We remain committed to finding optimal treatments for all people living with this aggressive disease,” Chief Medical Officer Levi Garraway, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement.

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And in the meantime, Roche is busy pushing Tecentriq earlier into TNBC treatment. In June, Roche said patients who took the drug with chemo ahead of surgery were more likely to show no signs of cancer in tissues removed by their surgeons. And that result held true whether or not patients’ tumors expressed PD-L1, the company said.