Genentech sees promise in combining experimental cancer drugs

Genentech has taken two of its most promising cancer programs and run them through a Phase I safety study to see if they should push ahead with more studies. And investigators got the green light that they were hoping for.

GDC-0973 as well as GDC-0941 each target a separate signaling pathway which play a key role in cell growth. But rather than stick with separate PI3K or MEK pathway studies, Genentech went to work early to see if a combined program is safe enough to warrant further investment. Genentech, a subsidiary of Roche, now has the chance to see if it can get a leap on competitors which are studying drugs that tackle individual pathways.

"We are very encouraged by this early data," said Channing J. Der, a cancer researcher at the University of North Carolina. "We are able to give these agents together safely and we are seeing early signs of anti-cancer activity...Combining agents that block multiple pathways in tumor cells is likely the future of targeted therapy in cancer medicine. Blocking two pathways that interact with each other has the potential to have more anti-cancer activity than blocking either pathway alone."

Researchers recruited 27 patients who received the combination of different doses of GDC-0973 and GDC-0941 on a daily 21 day on, seven day off schedule. The most common side effects: diarrhea, fatigue, rash, nausea, vomiting, decreased appetite and taste changes. Most of these side effects were reportedly mild.

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