Clinical trial finds Erbitux as first-line cancer treatment boosts survival rate

BERLIN A biotech drug for treating cancer increased patient survival to nearly two years when added to a chemotherapy treatment, according to an analysis of an international phase 3 clinical trial conducted by Merck KGaA.

The analysis showed that Erbitux (cetuximab) extended median overall survival to 19.9 months when added as a first-line treatment to the chemotherapy drug FOLFIRI in patients with colorectal cancer, compared to 18.6 months in those receiving FOLFIRI alone. In a subset of patients with wild-type K-ras tumors,  survival was increased to 23.5 months in patients who received both drugs, compared to 20 months in those only taking FOLFIRI.

The data, presented at the joint 15th European Cancer Organization and 34th European Society for Medical Oncology Multidisciplinary Congress, are an update from study results that appeared in the April issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly & Co. subsidiary ImClone Systems market Erbitux in the United States and Canada, while Merck KGaA – a separate company from U.S.-based Merck & Co. – markets it in Europe. The drug has Food and Drug Administration approval for treating head, neck and colorectal cancers.

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