Drug sold by Lilly tops Avastin in colon cancer survival study

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Erbitux, a drug sold by Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co., helped patients live longer than Roche Holding AG’s Avastin, a more commonly prescribed treatment, in a head-to-head test of the two drugs in patients with metastatic colon cancer.

Patients who got Erbitux together with chemotherapy as a first-line treatment lived about four months longer than those who got Avastin with chemotherapy, according to the 592-person study, dubbed Fire-3, presented Saturday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s meeting in Chicago.

Erbitux is marketed by Indianapolis-based Lilly and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in North America, and by Darmstadt, Germany-based Merck KGaA in Europe. Lilly realized about $400 million in revenue from the drug in 2012.

While unlikely to change doctors’ prescribing behavior alone, the unexpected results may focus attention on a bigger Erbitux-versus-Avastin study due next year, said Axel Grothey, a professor of oncology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Both drugs are approved as initial therapies in colon cancer in the U.S., though Avastin is used more often, he said.

“If we see the same finding in this study, then I think it’s real,” Grothey said, referring to next year’s follow-up trial. “If we don’t see this result, then the Fire-3 trial is more or less a fluke. Before I would change my standard of care I would wait for these results.”

Patients lived about the same amount of time before their disease worsened, 10 months compared to 10.3 months, in the Erbitux and Avastin arms of the trial. Overall response rate, or shrinkage of tumors, the trial’s main data endpoint, were also the same.

The survival results emerged more than a year after most patients had stopped taking either drug, as the group that got initial treatment with Erbitux lived a median 28.7 months, compared to 25 months for those taking Avastin. The study only included the roughly 60 percent of colon cancer patients whose tumors have the non-mutated KRAS gene that makes Erbitux more likely to be effective.

Outcomes could have been influenced by differing access to therapies once initial treatment was over, Mayo’s Grothey said.

Though he wasn’t involved with the trial itself, Grothey will serve as chairman this weekend for a combined advisory board on the study for Erbitux partners Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Lilly.

“These results are intriguing, but an unexplained positive finding from a secondary endpoint will not influence U.S. practice patterns,” Scott Kopetz, an associate professor of gastrointestinal medical oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said in an e-mail.

About half the patients in each arm of the study switched to the opposite medicine—from Erbitux to Avastin, or vice versa—as a second treatment once their cancer had worsened, said Volker Heinemann, a professor of medical oncology at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and lead author of the study. Full data on the treatment patients got once their cancer had worsened will be presented at the World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer in July, Heinemann said.

The results show that doctors who treat patients with the unmutated KRAS gene should choose Erbitux over Avastin, Heinemann said.

“For the moment we have to remain at that conclusion,” he said. “We are going to wait for support from the larger study. For the moment that is a reasonable conclusion.”

Roche looks forward to seeing full details of the study presented at the conference later today, spokesman Daniel Grotzky said in an e-mail before the results were released. Avastin is the Basel, Switzerland-based company’s third-biggest drug, with about $6 billion in sales last year.

Erbitux generated sales for Merck of 887 million euros $1.15 billion last year, with the majority of the revenue from initial use in metastatic colon cancer. The German company sells the medicine outside North America.

The survival benefit translated to a 23-percent lower risk of death for patients who got Erbitux, Merck said in an e-mailed statement. The German drugmaker said it looks forward to reviewing “emerging evidence” regarding how best to care for patients.

Germany’s Merck isn’t related to U.S. drugmaker Merck & Co.


  • Find a Cure
    Come on lets find a cure, Lilly. Drugs are just to keep us hanging on until the next drug that helps the side effects of the first drug are realeased. Why do the drug companies play this game of being a poser to find a cure. It will most likely come from a forign country if they can get the information released before a big drug company buys it up and puts the hush on it. How can we find a cure for AIDS but not cancer??? I heard years ago if we ever find a cure for AIDS we will also find one for cancer?

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Of what value is selling alcoholic beverages to State Fair patrons when there are many families with children attending. Is this the message we want to give children attending and participating in the Fair, another venue with alooholic consumption onsite. Is this to promote beer and wine production in the state which are great for the breweries and wineries, but where does this end up 10-15 years from now, lots more drinkers for the alcoholic contents. If these drinks are so important, why not remove the alcohol content and the flavor and drink itself similar to soft drinks would be the novelty, not the alcoholic content and its affects on the drinker. There is no social or material benefit from drinking alcoholic beverages, mostly people want to get slightly or highly drunk.

  2. I did;nt know anyone in Indiana could count- WHY did they NOT SAY just HOW this would be enforced? Because it WON;T! NOW- with that said- BIG BROTHER is ALIVE in this Article-why take any comment if it won't appease YOU PEOPLE- that's NOT American- with EVERYTHING you indicated is NOT said-I can see WHY it say's o Comments- YOU are COMMIES- BIG BROTHER and most likely- voted for Obama!

  3. In Europe there are schools for hairdressing but you don't get a license afterwards but you are required to assist in turkey and Italy its 7 years in japan it's 10 years England 2 so these people who assist know how to do hair their not just anybody and if your an owner and you hire someone with no experience then ur an idiot I've known stylist from different countries with no license but they are professional clean and safe they have no license but they have experience a license doesn't mean anything look at all the bad hairdressers in the world that have fried peoples hair okay but they have a license doesn't make them a professional at their job I think they should get rid of it because stateboard robs stylist and owners and they fine you for the dumbest f***ing things oh ur license isn't displayed 100$ oh ur wearing open toe shoes fine, oh there's ONE HAIR IN UR BRUSH that's a fine it's like really? So I think they need to go or ease up on their regulations because their too strict

  4. Exciting times in Carmel.

  5. Twenty years ago when we moved to Indy I was a stay at home mom and knew not very many people.WIBC was my family and friends for the most part. It was informative, civil, and humerous with Dave the KING. Terri, Jeff, Stever, Big Joe, Matt, Pat and Crumie. I loved them all, and they seemed to love each other. I didn't mind Greg Garrison, but I was not a Rush fan. NOW I can't stand Chicks and all their giggly opinions. Tony Katz is to abrasive that early in the morning(or really any time). I will tune in on Saturday morning for the usual fun and priceless information from Pat and Crumie, mornings it will be 90.1