Germany's Merck has linked with Array BioPharma and Pierre Fabre to initiate a lage-stage trial assessing the efficacy of a new combination therapy in BRAF-mutant metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC).

The global, Phase III BEACON CRC trial will investigate a new combination of Erbitux (cetuximab), a standard-of-care treatment for RAS wild-type mCRC which targets epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), plus encorafenib, a small molecule RAF inhibitor - with or without MEK inhibitor binimetinib.

"There is a clear need for effective treatment regimens for the BRAF-mutant mCRC population; the results of the BEACON CRC trial will hopefully provide us with the prospective information we need to take us one step closer to achieving that goal," noted Luciano Rossetti, Executive Vice President, Head of Global Research & Development at the biopharma business of Merck.

An estimated 10 percent of CRCs associated with an oncogenic mutation in the BRAF gene, and studies have observed that patients with this form of the disease have shorter progression-free survival and overall survival, highlighting the need for new treatment options.

"Historical studies suggest that BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer patients who have progressed after first-line systemic treatment have an estimated median overall survival of less than 6 months," said Dr Josep Tabernero, head of Medical Oncology and the Institute of Oncology at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital. 

"The BEACON CRC trial will explore innovative combinations which have the potential to offer new treatment options to these patients, who currently have few good choices remaining."