(Adds context on combination treatments, melanoma)
ZURICH, July 14 An experimental drug from Roche
helped people with an advanced form of skin cancer live
longer without their disease worsening when used in combination
with another treatment, the Swiss drugmaker said on Monday.
Pharmaceutical companies are looking to combination therapy
to yield better results and drug cocktails are expected to be
crucial as oncologists seek to block cancer on multiple fronts.
Cobimetinib, which is being developed in collaboration with
Exelixis Inc, is designed to be used with another Roche
drug called Zelboraf for patients with tumors that have a
mutation in a gene known as BRAF that allows melanoma cells to
About half of all melanomas have the genetic aberration the
Results of a Phase III study involving 495 patients
previously untreated for advanced melanoma found those taking
both drugs lived significantly longer without their disease
worsening compared to those taking Zelboraf alone.
Roche plans to present the results at an upcoming medical
meeting and said it would file the data for approval with health
Melanoma globally afflicts more than 232,000 new people each
year. While generally curable if caught early, it is one of the
deadliest cancers in its advanced stages and there are few
Cobimetinib works by blocking the activity of a protein
called MEK, while Zelboraf - which is already approved in more
than 80 countries - binds to the mutant protein BRAF.
Roche is also investigating cobimetinib in combination with
other experimental medicines, including an immunotherapy for the
treatment of non-small cell lung cancer and colorectal cancer.
($1 = 0.8929 Swiss Francs)
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Ron Popeski and