Things were so busy in the Icarus office yesterday I didn’t get a moment to post on the Roche/Genentech news that the latest topline phase III trial analysis for bevacizumab (Avastin) were disappointing.  The company announced the findings in a press release:

“Avastin (bevacizumab) in combination with Xeloda (capecitabine) or fluorouracil and cisplatin chemotherapy in patients with inoperable, advanced or metastatic gastric cancer (stomach cancer). The study, known as AVAGAST, did not meet its primary endpoint of extending overall survival in patients treated with Avastin in combination with chemotherapy compared to the same chemotherapy plus placebo.”

The full data will be presented at ASCO in June.

Now, while initially disappointing, anyone who was at ASCO last year will remember the stunning data from the ToGA trial, presented by Eric van Cutsem.  This study looked at the benefit of adding a different Roche drug, trastuzumab (Herceptin), to standard chemotherapy in patients with HER2 positive gastric cancer, and found a significant benefit of approximately 2.5 months compared to chemotherapy alone.

What is the significance of these two trials for gastric cancer?

Well, Avastin targets VEGF, Herceptin targets HER2, the first was negative, the second positive, which may tell us something useful about the biology of the disease and what mechanisms are driving the tumour growth.

Sometimes a negative result tells us more than we may realise at first.  It helps define what really matters.