Roche’s MetMab fails in lung cancer

Roche’s phase III trials of a new lung cancer treatment have been halted after failing to make any inroads into the disease.

An independent data monitoring committee says the phase III METLung study be stopped due to a lack of clinically meaningful efficacy – a huge blow for Roche’s late-stage pipeline.

The study looked at onartuzumab (MetMab) in combination with Tarceva (erlotinib) to see if the combination could help patients with previously treated, advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose tumours were identified as MET-positive live longer compared to Tarceva alone.

“These results are disappointing because new options are needed for patients with lung cancer, the most common and deadly cancer worldwide,” said Sandra Horning, M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Head of Global Product Development. “We remain committed to helping patients with lung cancer and are studying several investigational medicines in this disease.”

Roche says it will evaluate the implications of the METLung study results across the ongoing onartuzumab clinical programme. The drug is a monovalent (one-armed) monoclonal antibody designed to specifically target the MET receptor and is being studied in various cancers.

The company is known for its success in developing a string of groundbreaking cancer treatments, including Avastin in bowel cancer and Herceptin in breast cancer, and a new generation of treatments such as Kadcyla, an antibody conjugate version of Herceptin.

Progress in lung cancer is proving much more elusive, however, and many pharma companies have had to deal with late-stage failure in the therapy area.

One exception to this looks to be Lilly’s ramucirumab, which recently demonstrated improved overall survival in second line NSCLC patients.

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