Array BioPharma's colorectal cancer combo treatment meets main goals

(Reuters) - Array BioPharma Inc’s cocktail of three therapies helped patients with a type of colorectal cancer live longer than those on standard treatment, according to interim results of a late-stage study on Tuesday.

The combination therapy, comprising Array’s Braftovi and Mektovi and Eli Lilly and Co’s Erbitux, helped half the patients enrolled in the study survive nine months.

This was in comparison to the standard regimen of Erbitux and chemotherapy irinotecan, which showed a median overall survival of 5.4 months in patients.

Array’s combination also helped reduce the risk of death from colorectal cancer by 48% compared to the standard of care in patients, with a gene mutation known as BRAF V600E, whose cancer had progressed after one or two other therapies.

The mutation occurs in up to 15% of metastatic colorectal cancer patients, and there are no FDA-approved treatments for the condition, according to the company.

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women, and about 145,600 new cases of colon or rectal cancer are expected in the United States in 2019, according to the American Cancer Society.

The company said it is testing the combination as a potential first-line treatment for colorectal cancer patients with the BRAF V600E mutation in a separate study.

“We’ve seen that in earlier lines of patients there appears to be more tumor shrinkage ... the goal ultimately is to treat patients as early as possible,” Chief Executive Officer Ron Squarer told Reuters.

In the latest study, Array also tested a double-combination version of the therapy, which helped reduce the risk of death by 40%, with a median overall survival rate of 8.4 months.

Both combinations were generally well tolerated with no unexpected toxicities. The company said it expects to submit the data for marketing approval in the second half of 2019.

Array’s Braftovi and Mektovi received FDA approval last year for treating a deadly form of skin cancer.

Reporting by Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli