Roche announced today that the European Commission has approved Herceptin (trastuzumab) in combination with chemotherapy for use in patients with HER2-positive metastatic stomach (gastric) cancer. The approval is based on the impressive results from the international ToGA trial, which showed that treatment with Herceptin significantly prolongs the lives of patients with this aggressive cancer. Overall survival for patients with high levels of HER2 in the ToGA study was 16 months versus 11.8 months (on average) for patients receiving chemotherapy alone.
“Herceptin is the first targeted biological therapy to show a survival benefit in advanced stomach cancer and represents a significant advance in the treatment of this devastating disease”, said Pascal Soriot, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Roche Pharmaceutical Division. “We believe that Herceptin will help patients with HER2-positive stomach cancer, as much as it has helped so many women with HER2-positive breast cancer.”
Based on the strong results from the phase III ToGA study, the submission for the label extension was reviewed in an accelerated process by the European Health Authorities, allowing patients to benefit sooner from this life-extending treatment. This marketing authorisation is valid with immediate effect in all European Union (EU) and EEA-EFTA states (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). Following approval in the European Union, approvals for a label extension for Herceptin in other regions of the world are expected to follow soon.
“I am delighted that today’s approval will make Herceptin available to patients with HER-2 positive metastatic stomach cancer across Europe,” said Professor Eric Van Cutsem, University Hospital Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium, one of the lead investigators of the ToGA trial. “The approval of Herceptin for HER2-positive stomach cancer represents an important advance for the treatment of these patients. Clinicians will need to ensure that patients with metastatic stomach cancer are accurately tested for HER2 expression.”
Stomach cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the world and is the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer, with over 1,000,000 cases of stomach cancer diagnosed each year. Advanced stomach cancer is associated with a poor prognosis; the median survival time after diagnosis is approximately 10-11 months with currently available therapies.3 Approximately 15 – 18% of stomach tumours show high levels of HER2. Early diagnosis of this disease is challenging because most patients do not show symptoms in the early stage.