Patients given Zelboraf showed a median overall survival of 13.2 months, compared to 9.6 months with chemotherapy.
An abstract of the trial report stated that the increased survival meant a 38% reduction in the risk of death from melanoma.
A previous controlled trial, which formed the basis for the drug’s FDA approval in 2011, was halted early so that patients in the chemotherapy arm could be given Zelboraf for their clinical benefit.
Zelboraf has been hailed as a leading example of ‘personalised’ medicine as it targets the BRAF gene mutation, carried by about half of all melanoma patients.
Jennifer Low, Group Medical Director in Product Development for Genentech, Roche’s US subsidiary, commented: “The life expectancy for these patients isn’t very long, so they have an opportunity to have therapy that on average improves survival by a really significant amount.”
Roche is also testing Zelboraf as a treatment for other types of cancer, alone or in combination with other drugs.