More promising survival data on certain patients suffering from advanced colorectal cancer have been presented by Merck KGaA on Erbitux.

The German firm's Merck Serono unit has presented a retrospective analysis of the CRYSTAL trial at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting demonstrating that Erbitux (cetuximab) significantly improves outcomes in metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC) patients with KRAS wild-type tumours, even if they have disease which has spread beyond the liver.

Results showed that patients with non-liver limited disease (non-LLD) treated with Erbitux (cetuximab) and standard chemotherapy (FOLFIRI) experienced a significant increase in overall survival of more than five months, compared to those treated with chemotherapy alone (22.5 vs. 17.4 months). The majority of mCRC patients fall into this more advanced category (70% of patients have non-LLD).

In addition, the new analysis examined the impact of Erbitux combination therapy on LLD patients’ ability to undergo potentially curative surgery (ie complete resection: R0). The highest R0 rate was seen in patients with LLD treated with Erbitux plus FOLFIRI, in whom a 2.58-fold increase in the chance of R0 versus CT alone, while not reaching statistical significance (13.2% vs. 5.6%), was demonstrated.

The company said the findings "point to the growing importance of Erbitux in mCRC and the value of personalising cancer care via a stratified medicine approach". Wolfgang Wein, head of oncology at Merck Serono, added that "in the palliation of patients where the tumour has spread beyond the liver prolonged survival is essential".