Roche has staked its claim to the cornerstone of first-line treatment of colorectal cancer, saying its Xeloda and Avastin drugs “set new standards” for the management of the disease.

A study published at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) meeting in Istanbul show that oral Xeloda (capecitabine) should replace the combination of 5-FU and leucovorin in colorectal cancer regimens, while adding Avastin (bevacizumab) to standard chemotherapy significantly improved progression-free survival.

The 2,034-patient NO16966 trial found that the XELOX regimen of Xeloda plus oxaliplatin was as effective as the current standard FOLFOX-4 (infused 5-FU/leucovorin plus oxaliplatin) in maintaining progression-free survival in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer.

Because Xeloda is given orally, the amount of time spent receiving infusions with XELOX is just two hours, compared to 48 hours for the FOLFOX-4 regimen, commented Prof Jim Cassidy, co-lead investigator for the study and chair of medical oncology at Beatson Oncology Centre in Scotland.

Moreover, adding Avastin to chemotherapy gave a 20% increase in progression-free survival, he said.

Meanwhile, Roche also reported data at ESMO showing that Xeloda can confer significant benefits added to standard chemotherapy with Herceptin (trastuzumab) and docetaxel in advanced HER-2-positive breast cancer patients.

According to the Phase II data the median delay in the progression of the disease increased significantly from just below 14 months to over 18 months when Xeloda was added to the regimen, while progression-free survival increased from 13 to 15 months.

The results “provide the first evidence that adding a third chemotherapy to the most commonly used first-line regimen provides a considerable extra benefit for patients with a particularly aggressive form of the disease,” said Roche in a statement.