Roche and Genentech’s expected blockbuster Tarceva (erlonitib) has been granted a green light in Europe to treat non-small cell lung cancer.

In clinical trials, Tarceva has been shown to improve survival by an impressive 42% (6.7 months versus 4.7 months), alongside improvements in quality of life and disease symptoms. Furthermore, says Roche, 31% of patients receiving Tarceva were alive at one year versus 22% in the placebo arm.

Tarceva is an oral once-daily therapy that works to specifically attack tumour cells and avoid the unpleasant side effects associated with conventional chemotherapy. It has been approved for use in patients with advanced disease who have failed to at least one previous chemotherapy regimen. Said Dr Giuseppi Giaccone, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam: “Over 50% of lung cancer patients in Europe are not receiving second-line treatment. With the approval of Tarceva, physicians now have a viable alternative to chemotherapy for their patients.”

Tarceva is already marketed for NSCLC in the USA and, most recently, received a recommendation from a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel opening the door for its use in pancreatic cancer [[14/09/05a]].