Tarceva (erlotinib)can nearly double the time people with lung cancer can live without their disease getting worse compared to those treated with chemotherapy, a study has revealed.

The Phase III study showed that the drug reduced the risk of the disease worsening by 63% in Western patients with non-small lung cancer coupled with EGFR-activating mutations, compared with standard chemotherapy.

The distinct type of lung cancer occurs in 10% of lung cancer patients in the Western population and around 30% in Asian patients.

Hal Barron, managing director and chief medical officer for Global Product Development at Roche, the parent company of Genentech said, “Two studies have now shown that Tarceva as a first-line therapy for EGFR mutation-positive advanced lung cancer increased the time people lived without cancer worsening compared with standard chemotherapy.

“This is an important step forward in our goal of providing personalized options for people with advanced lung cancer.”

Roche has applied to the European Medicines Agency to extend the current EU label for Tarceva to include first-line use in people with advanced EGFR-activating, mutation-positive non small lung cancer.

Discussions are also ongoing with the US Food and Drug Administration regarding a test which will help identify patients who are appropriate candidates for Tarceva.