Triplet therapy improves survival of bowel cancer patients

Written by Ilana Landau, Editor

A new clinical trial investigating the use of a novel combination therapy versus monotherapy for the treatment of bowel cancer, has found the combination therapy to significantly improve patients’ survival rates.

New data, presented at the ESMO World Congress on Gastrointestinal Cancer 2019 (3–6 July, Barcelona, Spain) has demonstrated that a combination, triplet therapy targeting BRAF mutations in progressive metastatic colorectal tumors, significantly improved patients’ survival rates and objective response, compared with standard monotherapy.

The results of the BEACON CRC Phase III clinical trial suggest that a combination of encorafenib, binimetinib and cetuximab should perhaps replace standard chemotherapy for some patients with certain BRAF mutation positive bowel cancers.

The international BEACON CRC trial assessed 665 patients with BRAF V600E-mutant colorectal cancer who had already trialed at least one other treatment.

Participants were randomized into groups to receive either the triplet therapy (encorafenib, binimetinib and cetuximab), doublet therapy (encorafenib and cetuximab only) or the clinicians pick of one monotherapy from a choice of irinotecan or folinic acid, fluoruracil and irinotecan (FOLFIRI) or cetuximab.

Median patient survival on the triplet therapy was 9 months, compared with 5.4 months survival for patients receiving a standard monotherapy.

Scott Kopetz, study author from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (TX, USA), commented: “These are very exciting results because we’ve been trying to target BRAF-mutant colorectal cancer for many years. It’s encouraging to see such a significant improvement in overall survival and response in patients with such aggressive tumor biology. Hopefully, this will soon lead to increased access to this treatment for patients where there is currently such a large unmet need,”

Andrés Cervantes, of the Biomedical Research Institute INCLIVA, University of Valencia (Spain), commented:  “We now have a specific treatment that can change the natural course of the disease in patients with BRAF mutations and is better than previous therapy, so it is essential that patients are routinely tested [for BRAF mutations].”

Cervantes continued: “In many other types of cancer, and particularly in colorectal cancer, it is common for biological targeted therapies to be used in combination with chemotherapy. The fact that we can give this targeted combination without the need for chemotherapy is very good news for patients, not least because of the side effects that they typically experience with chemotherapy,”

An ongoing study investigating the effects of this triplet therapy as use for first line treatment for patients with metastatic BRAF V600E-mutant colorectal cancer, is underway.