Swiss biotech company Roche has announced the development of a skin cancer medication treatment that has shown in a late-stage test to be effective in helping advanced patients live longer without disease progression. The experimental treatment combines two drugs from the Basel-based company, Cobimetinib and Zelboraf, and is designed for patients with tumors that have a mutation in the BRAF gene, which precipitates melanoma cell growth.
The tests performed by the company showed that the combination allows patients to “live significantly longer” without the worsening of the condition, compared with patients who were administrated with Zelboraf alone. The study is currently in the final stage of human testing — a phase 3 study — in which 495 patients are participating.
The drugs work by inhibiting the activation of melanoma’s signature MEK protein and releasing the content of Zelboraf, with the intent to kill melanoma cells exhibiting the mutation without damaging healthy cells. The combination of drugs has also been proven effective in stopping the progression and spread of the disease, enabling patients to maintain higher quality of life.
Final results of the study will be presented at an upcoming medical meeting, according to Roche. The company also expects the results of the study to support commercial approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency, and other global health authorities, which could in turn improve the treatment of the more than 70,000 people around the world who suffer every year from melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers. Roche reported almost $400 million in Zelboraf sales worldwide in 2013, including $138 million in the U.S.