Roche Cancer Drug Shrinks Lung Tumors in 26% of Smokers in Trial

An experimental cancer drug by Roche Holding AG shrank lung tumors in 26 percent of smokers in a trial, giving the Swiss company a promising new therapy for a difficult-to-treat group.

In an analysis of 53 patients in an early-stage study of Roche’s MPDL3280A, those whose tumors were reduced had a median response of 48 weeks, and all bar one are “still in response,” said Jean-Charles Soria, who led the research at the Gustave Roussy Institute in Paris. The infusion, given once every three weeks, worked best for those with the highest levels of a protein called PD-L1, according to data presented by Soria at the European Cancer Congress in Amsterdam today.

The drug works by blocking PD-L1, which prevents the immune system from attacking cancer cells. Roche has started late-stage studies of MPDL3280A in combination with its own test for determining which patients will benefit most from the treatment, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said in a statement today.

“There is no discussion, this is really working,” Soria told reporters in Amsterdam. “This is the first targeted agent showing more activity in smoking patients than in never smokers.”

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