FLORIDA: The combination of two anti-cancer treatments following standard chemotherapy can slow advanced non-small cell lung cancer, according to a study unveiled Saturday. Patients treated with a combination of Tarceva, sold by the Swiss drugmaker Roche, and Avastin, a drug by Roche's Genentech unit, saw their cancer growth slow more than a control group treated with Avastin. More than 750 patients were randomized to receive Avastin and a placebo, or Avastin and Tarceva. Those in the Tarceva group survived an average of 4.8 months before the cancer started growing again, compared to 3.7 months for the control group, said Vincent Miller, the study's main author. The numbers translated to a 29 percent reduced risk of disease progression for patients who took a combination of Tarceva and Avastin. All of the patients in the double-blind, Phase 3 trial received four cycles of chemotherapy and Avastin as initial treatment. Miller, of the Memorial Sloan-Ketterin Cancer Center in New York, presented his findings at the 45th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Orlando, Florida this weekend, the biggest global cancer conference. Non-small cell lung cancer, often linked to smoking, is the most common lung cancer and the most prevalent cancer, accounting for 14 percent of all cases in the United States. It is also the deadliest, accounting for 23.3 percent of US cancer deaths, well ahead of colorectal (8.9 percent) and breast (7.2 percent) cancer. "This is the first study to show that adding erlotinib (Tarceva) to maintenance therapy with bevacizumab (Avastin) delays disease progression in patients who have already received bevacizumab as part of their initial chemotherapy," said Miller. "We've shown here we can delay progression with the addition of a targeted agent, erlotinib (Tarceva). Critical future work will try to determine which patients will get the greatest benefit from this combination, based in large part on the identification of genetic biomarkers."
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