Bayer says a combination of its liver cancer drug Nexavar, developed with Onyx Pharmaceuticals, and Roche/Astellas Pharma's Tarceva, did not provide additional benefit to patients versus the German firm's drug alone.

A Phase III trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of the addition of Tarceva (erlotinib) tablets to Nexavar (sorafenib) tablets for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma did not further improve overall survival compared to Nexavar alone. Some 720 patients were randomised to receive the combo or Nexavar, and Bayer notes that data from this study will be presented at an upcoming scientific meeting.

The results are a boost for the Leverkusen-based firm as Dimitris Voliotis, head of global clinical development oncology at Bayer HealthCare, noted that they "confirm the proven efficacy and safety profiles of Nexavar in HCC". The tablet is approved for patients with inoperable liver cancer and advanced kidney cancer and had first-quarter sales of 186 million euros, up 4.5%.

The trial was conducted by Bayer, Onyx, Astellas and Roche and the latter has stated it has no plans to develop Tarceva, which is approved for non-small cell lung and pancreatic cancers, as a liver cancer treatment, either alone or in combination.

Last week, Bristol-Myers Squibb said that its investigational liver cancer drug brivanib failed in a head-to-head Phase III trial with Nexavar.