A combination of Tecentriq (atezolizumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab) - both Roche drugs – has been found to significantly increase overall survival in patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma, compared to Bayer’s standard-of-care Nexavar (sorafenib).

The Swiss pharma giant confirmed that in the Phase III IMbrave150 study, of which the full results are still unannounced, the combination met both of its co-primary endpoints demonstrating statistically significant and clinically meaningful improvements in overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS).

Further, the safety results were consistent with the known safety profiles of the individual medicines, with no new safety signals identified.

The company said that it is “very pleased with the results”, going on to say that the study marks the “first treatment in more than a decade to improve overall survival in people with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma who have not received prior systemic therapy.”

Levi Garraway, chief medical officer and head of global product development, explained that “hepatocellular carcinoma is a major cause of death globally and particularly in Asia, making this study an important step in our mission of addressing unmet medical needs for patients around the world.”

He continued, “We will submit these data to global health authorities as soon as possible. Our hope is to bring a new treatment to people with this aggressive disease who currently have limited options.”

Roche has an extensive development programme for Tecentriq, including multiple ongoing and planned Phase III studies, across lung, genitourinary, skin, breast, gastrointestinal, gynaecological, and head and neck cancers.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is an aggressive cancer with limited treatment options and is a major cause of cancer deaths worldwide, affecting over 750,000 people every year. It develops predominantly in people with cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis (B or C) or alcohol consumption, and typically presents at an advanced stage.