Roche has presented fresh data which shows that Tarceva improves the survival of patients with advanced lung cancer.

The data comes from SATURN, a 880-patient Phase III study, which the Swiss major says met a key secondary endpoint of extending overall survival in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who received Tarceva (erlotinib) immediately after their initial chemotherapy. Roche adds that a statistically significant improvement in overall survival was seen in the pre-planned final analysis of the study (438 patients received Tarceva and 451 placebo) and the new data will be presented during the World Conference on Lung Cancer starting in San Francisco at the end of the month.

Federico Cappuzzo, principal investigator of the SATURN study, said it not only confirms that immediate treatment with Tarceva after initial chemotherapy delayed the progression of disease, but “also importantly helped patients in the study live longer”. In May, SATURN primary endpoint data was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Orlando which showed that patients who received treatment with Tarceva immediately after initial chemotherapy if their cancer had not progressed had a 41% improvement in the length of time they lived without their disease getting worse compared to placebo.

Applications have been filed in the USA (along with partner OSI Pharmaceuticals) and Europe for use of Tarceva as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with advanced NSCLC. Tarceva, which is already approved as a secondary treatment for NSCLC and a first-line treatment for pancreatic cancer, enjoyed a 13% sales rise in the first quarter to 320 million francs.