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Scientists Unveil New Treatment Against Skin Cancer

Posted: September 23, 2009

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PLX4032, which Roche is developing with privately held U.S. biotech company Plexxikon, is the latest in a growing group of gene-targeted drugs that oncologists believe will drive future cancer treatment. It works by blocking the activity of the cancer-causing mutation of the BRAF gene, which is implicated in 50—60% of melanomas.

Avastin misses

The failure of Avastin—a $5 billion-a-year seller in colon, lung and breast cancer—confounded expectations of doctors in Berlin, since a late-breaking abstract published earlier had reported a meaningful survival benefit. But a last-minute review of the clinical data changed the outcome and researchers said the Phase II study in fact missed its goal, despite an encouraging trend. Medical experts said larger trials might yet prove Avastin worked in melanoma, noting that the drug also initially failed to show significance in breast cancer.

Despite the disappointment, principal investigator Steven O'Day of the Angeles Clinic and Research Institute in California said the data collected on Avastin were "very encouraging and warrant continued investigation." The 214-patient study found the median overall survival in the Avastin arm was 12.3 months, against 9.2 months in the control arm, but there was a 19% likelihood that this result happened by chance. To prove statistical significance, clinical trials require a 5% or less likelihood that a finding is due to chance.

Reuters, September 23, 2009