A new Phase III study for Roche‘s cancer drug Tarceva has shown an improvement in overall survivability for lung cancer patients when used immediately after initial chemotherapy.

The Saturn trial showed a statistically significant improvement in overall survival of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in the final analysis of the total patient population in the study.

SATURN study principal investigator Federico Cappuzzo said that the study not only confirmed that immediate treatment with Tarceva after initial chemotherapy delayed the progression of disease, but also helped patients in the study live longer.

“This is good news since advanced lung cancer is one of the most challenging cancers to treat and is often associated with a very short life expectancy,” Capuzzo said.

Tarceva is already a well-established treatment in second-line management of advanced NSCLC after the failure of chemotherapy.

Roche and Tarceva partner OSI will use the overall survival data from the SATURN trial to support applications for the use of Tarceva as a first-line maintenance treatment for patients with advanced NSCLC made to the European Medicines Agency and US Food and Drug Administration in March 2009.