Phase III study of Roche’s Alecensa (alectinib) showed superior efficacy versus crizotinib in Japanese people with a specific type of lung cancer

Basel, 19 May 2016

  • First investigational head-to-head study of Alecensa versus crizotinib in people with advanced ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) today announced that Alecensa® , an oral anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) inhibitor, reduced the risk of disease worsening or death (progression free survival, PFS) by 66 percent compared to crizotinib in Japanese people with advanced or recurrent, ALK-positive non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (hazard ratio [HR]=0.34, 99 percent CI: 0.17-0.70, p<0.0001). Median PFS was not reached in people who received Alecensa (95 percent CI: 20.3 months-not reached) versus 10.2 months median PFS (95 percent CI: 8.2-12.0) in people who received crizotinib. The results were from a pre-specified interim analysis from the Phase III J-ALEX study in people who had not received prior treatment with an ALK-inhibitor. There were fewer adverse events (AEs) in the Alecensa arm versus the crizotinib arm. Alecensa demonstrated a safety profile consistent with that observed in previous studies with no new or unexpected AEs.

“This is the first investigational study to show Alecensa helped people live longer without their disease getting worse compared to crizotinib,” said Sandra Horning, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Head of Global Product Development. “We believe these efficacy and safety results represent a clinically meaningful advancement for people with ALK-positive lung cancer, and we plan to discuss these data with health authorities, including the FDA.”

The official J-ALEX data presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting will be on Monday 6th June, from 12:09 - 12:21 CDT (Abstract #9008). The data will be featured during the Roche media briefing from 10:45 - 12:30 CDT on Friday 3rd June at the Chicago Marriott Hotel Downtown Magnificent Mile. This event, independently organised by Roche, is open to journalists from outside the United States who have registered as media with the ASCO 2016 Annual Meeting. To register, please use the following link.

Alecensa was granted accelerated approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2015 for the treatment of people with ALK-positive NSCLC who have progressed on or are intolerant to crizotinib. ALEX, a global, randomised Phase III study, is ongoing, comparing Alecensa to crizotinib as an initial (first-line) treatment for people with advanced NSCLC whose tumours were characterised as ALK-positive by a companion VENTANA ALK (D5F3) CDx Assay immunohistochemistry (IHC) test developed by Roche Tissue Diagnostics. This study is part of the company’s commitment to convert the current accelerated approval in people with ALK-positive, metastatic NSCLC who have progressed on or are intolerant to crizotinib to a full approval as an initial treatment.

About J-ALEX

The J-ALEX study conducted by Chugai is an open-label, randomised Phase III study that compared the efficacy and safety of Alecensa to crizotinib in Japanese people. The J-ALEX study enrolled 207 people with ALK-positive, advanced or recurrent NSCLC who had not been previously treated with an ALK-inhibitor. People were randomised to the Alecensa group or the crizotinib group in a one-to-one ratio. Results include:

  • Alecensa reduced the risk of disease worsening or death (PFS) by 66 percent compared to crizotinib (HR=0.34, 99 percent CI: 0.17-0.70, p<0.0001).
  • Median PFS was not reached in the Alecensa arm (95 percent CI: 20.3 months-not estimated) versus 10.2 months in the crizotinib arm (95 percent CI: 8.2-12.0).
  • Grade 3-4 AEs occurred with greater frequency in the crizotinib arm compared to the Alecensa arm (51 percent vs. 27 percent).
  • The most common AE occurring with > 30 percent frequency with Alecensa was constipation (36 percent). The most common AEs for crizotinib were nausea (74 percent), diarrhoea (73 percent), vomiting (59 percent), visual disturbance (55 percent), alteration in taste (dysgeusia; 52 percent), constipation (46 percent), and an elevation in liver enzymes called alanine transaminase (ALT, 32 percent) and aspartate transaminase (AST, 31 percent).

About Alecensa® (alectinib)

Alecensa (RG7853/AF-802/RO5424802/CH5424802) is an oral medicine created at Chugai Kamakura Research Laboratories and is being developed for people with NSCLC whose tumours are identified as ALK+. ALK+ NSCLC is often found in younger people who have a light or non-smoking history. It is almost always found in people with a specific type of NSCLC called adenocarcinoma. Alecensa is currently approved in the United States for the treatment of advanced (metastatic) ALK-positive NSCLC whose disease has worsened after, or who could not tolerate treatment with, crizotinib.

In two key phase II studies, NP28761 and NP28673, Alecensa shrank tumours in up to 44 percent of people with ALK-positive NSCLC who progressed on crizotinib. Alecensa also demonstrated activity in brain metastases, indicating that the drug may be taken up in the brain. The brain is protected by the Blood-Brain Barrier, a network of tightly joined cells that line the inside of the blood vessels in the brain and spinal cord. One of the ways the Blood-Brain Barrier prevents molecules from affecting the brain is to actively eject them from the barrier through a process known as ‘active efflux’. The active efflux system does not recognise Alecensa, which means that it may travel into and throughout brain tissue.

The global phase III studies of Alecensa include a companion test developed by Roche Diagnostics. Alecensa is marketed in Japan by Chugai Pharmaceutical, a member of the Roche Group.

About Roche in lung cancer

Lung cancer is a major area of focus and investment for Roche, and we are committed to developing new approaches, medicines and tests that can help people with this deadly disease. Our goal is to provide an effective treatment option for every person diagnosed with lung cancer. We currently have three approved medicines to treat certain kinds of lung cancer and more than ten medicines being developed to target the most common genetic drivers of lung cancer or to boost the immune system to combat the disease.

About Roche

Roche is a global pioneer in pharmaceuticals and diagnostics focused on advancing science to improve people’s lives.

Roche is the world’s largest biotech company, with truly differentiated medicines in oncology, immunology, infectious diseases, ophthalmology and diseases of the central nervous system. Roche is also the world leader in in vitro diagnostics and tissue-based cancer diagnostics, and a frontrunner in diabetes management. The combined strengths of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics under one roof have made Roche the leader in personalised healthcare – a strategy that aims to fit the right treatment to each patient in the best way possible.

Founded in 1896, Roche continues to search for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and make a sustainable contribution to society. Twenty-nine medicines developed by Roche are included in the World Health Organization Model Lists of Essential Medicines, among them life-saving antibiotics, antimalarials and cancer medicines. Roche has been recognised as the Group Leader in sustainability within the Pharmaceuticals, Biotechnology & Life Sciences Industry seven years in a row by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices.

The Roche Group, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, is active in over 100 countries and in 2015 employed more than 91,700 people worldwide. In 2015, Roche invested CHF 9.3 billion in R&D and posted sales of CHF 48.1 billion. Genentech, in the United States, is a wholly owned member of the Roche Group. Roche is the majority shareholder in Chugai Pharmaceutical, Japan. For more information, please visit

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