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Roche’s Lung Cancer Drug Shows Promise

Roche’s Lung Cancer Drug Shows Promise

Two more sets of clinical trial data for the lung cancer drug, atezolizumab, have been released, showing promising outcomes. The success of the programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) checkpoint inhibitor – developed by Roche –  is being closely followed by industry insiders who are predicting the drug could be revolutionary in refractory lung cancer treatment.

The latest batch of clinical trial results for atezolizumab were presented at the 2015 European Cancer Congress. Roche’s researchers made the announcement that patients who received treatment with the drug, had a 7.7 month survival advantage over patients who received conventional chemotherapy treatment. The patients enrolled in the study share a common type of lung cancer, which is characterized by overexpression of PD-L1.

Among the lung cancer patients involved in the study, 27 percent experienced shrinkage of their tumors. The drug was also shown to be effective in a mid-stage trial involving patients with PD-L1-positive bladder cancer.

According to Sandra Horning, Roche’s chief of global product development, “These results may represent the first major treatment advancement in advanced bladder cancer in nearly 30 years. We are encouraged that responses to atezolizumab were ongoing in the large majority of people, when the study results were assessed.”

Though Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb were the first to receive approval for their PD-1 targeted drugs, Roche’s PD-L1 drug focuses on another mechanism involved in cancer progression. The company is conducting 11 last-stage trials in an effort to show that atezolizumab is the best choice for the treatment of PD-L1 overexpressing tumors.

As PD-L1 can help tumors evade detection by the patient’s immune system, atezolizumab could be a powerful drug to target a number of different cancer types. Following release of their positive trial results, Roche is hoping for accelerated approval of the drug.

Martin Reck, chief oncology physician at Germany’s Hospital Grosshansdorf, is lending his support to Roche’s atezolizumab. “Atezolizumab is the second checkpoint inhibitor to show a superior efficacy and better tolerability compared to standard second-line chemotherapy in patients with pre-treated non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC),” said Reck. “Therefore it is to be expected that atezolizumab, like other PD-1 and PD-L1 antibodies, will substantially change treatment strategies for patients with refractory lung cancer.”