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ZURICH, March 26 (Reuters) - Roche's Tecentriq immunotherapy combined with other drugs boosted lung cancer patients' survival versus an older cocktail, the Swiss company said as it seeks an edge on Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb.
Mixing Tecentriq with Avastin and carboplatin and paclitaxel boosted overall survival in first-line treatment of non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, Roche said on Monday, compared to patients who received only Avastin plus the two chemotherapies.
The latest trial success follows Roche's announcement last week about a separate study in which Tecentriq mixed with chemotherapies carboplatin and Abraxane boosted progression-free survival, compared with chemotherapy alone, in first-line treatment of patients with advanced squamous non-small cell lung cancer.
The Basel-based company, which had previously announced Tecentriq, Avastin and chemotherapy had reduced the risk of disease progression or death, said on Monday it hopes for a quick approval from authorities for the cocktail.
While Roche did not provide specific overall survival data, the headline result helps its bid to catch up to better-established immunotherapies from Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb and its shares rose about 1 percent in early trading.
"We are pleased the IMpower150 study demonstrated a clinically meaningful survival benefit for people receiving their initial treatment for this type of advanced lung cancer," said Sandra Horning, Roches chief medical officer.
She also said the survival benefit was observed across key subgroups, including those with varying levels of a protein called PD-L1 that can help tumours avoid detection. This could help Roche make the case that its cocktail is suitable for broad patients groups, not just those with specific biomarkers.
The world's biggest maker of cancer drugs is counting on growing sales of Tecentriq, which notched 487 million Swiss francs in 2017, to help offset falling revenue from its older cancer medicines Avastin, Rituxan and Herceptin whose patent expirations are exposing them to rivals' cheaper copies.
Analysts from Baader Helvea said its announcement completes an "already robust" set of data for regulators who now must sign off on Tecentriq's use as an initial treatment of lung cancer.
"We continue to see Roche efficacy more than sufficiently competitive to grant a 43 percent market share in the indication, translating in 4.9 billion francs Tecentriq peak sales and 1.2 billion francs in 2018," Baader's Bruno Bulic said.
"Facing biosimilar competition... we see Tecentriq sales coming timely to support Roches profitability going forward." (Reporting by John Miller; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi/Louise Heavens/Alexander Smith)