Two heads may be better than one, but two colon cancer inhibitors might be worse. A new study found that adding Eli Lilly's Erbitux to the now-standard treatment of chemo drugs plus Genentech's Avastin actually cut survival time while it boosted adverse reactions.
The findings surprised researchers, because two animal studies and two small human trials had hinted that the combo would be a success. "This will stand out as a warning," the new study's lead author told the Associated Press. "You have to do the randomized studies to see what really happens."
But the Erbitux-Avastin combo's performance echoed that of a similar drug pairing, Avastin and Amgen's Vectibix; that study was halted back in March 2007 because of a higher rate of adverse events and deaths. "The lesson is that there may be negative interactions between those inhibitors that may be detrimental to those patients, even when animal studies show benefits," Dr. Cornelis J.A. Punt, a professor of medical oncology at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center in the Netherlands and lead author of a report in the Feb. 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, told HealthDay.