Roche inadvertently publishes positive results from a lung cancer drug study

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Roche inadvertently disclosed positive results in a closely watched lung cancer drug study, sending shares of the Swiss pharmaceutical group up as much as 5 per cent.

An interim analysis the company erroneously posted on its website showed that the immunotherapy drug teragolumab, when taken with the commonly used antibody drug Tecentriq, increased patients’ overall survival time.

The data, unearthed by an equity analyst, has given investors hope for the drug despite Roche’s warning that it is not yet “mature”.

Previous data from the same trial showed that the researchers missed another target of showing a statistically significant difference in tumor growth.

The late-stage trial includes 534 patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, an invasive form of the disease.

The erroneously published data showed that patients who took the new drug in combination with Tecentriq survived an average of 22.9 months, which is significantly longer than 16.7 months for those who took only Tecentriq.

Omar Rafat, the Evercore analyst who found the presentation, said the data was “very good.”

Analysts at the life sciences-focused investment bank Leerink said the improvement was “clinically meaningful”. They added that although Roche’s public comments hinted at positive results, there had been no detailed data available to the public before.

Immuno-oncology — which harnesses the power of the immune system to treat cancer — has transformed the outlook for many patients over the past decade.

However, patents for some of the biggest immunology drugs are set to expire before 2030, and drugmakers are looking for a future generation of more effective drugs to generate new revenue streams.

The results could also be positive for other companies that are developing drugs with similar mechanisms, which are known as TIGITs, the Leerink analysts added.

The drugs target a receptor that suppresses the immune system’s response to cancer. The researchers believe they will improve the effectiveness of other immunology drugs when both drugs are used together.

Shares of major pharmaceutical companies that are also developing TIGIT antibiotics rose. Shares of GlaxoSmithKline rose 1.7 percent in midday trading in London, while Merck and Gilead shares added 1.2 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, in pre-market trading in New York.

Small biotechnology companies developing similar drugs have risen strongly. Arcus Biosciences rose 25 percent, and iTeos Therapeutics jumped 28 percent in pre-market trading.

The Roche data showed that teragolumab was “well tolerated” by patients and that side effects were no worse than current treatments.

The ongoing study is “blind” for patients and researchers, and is a way to reduce bias in such trials.

Roche shares rose 5.1 percent to 265.95 Swiss francs.

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