ZURICH (Reuters) – Roche’s Tecentriq plus chemotherapy boosted lung cancer patients’ survival by nearly five months, study data released on Monday showed, underscoring benefits of the Swiss group’s immunotherapy but still leaving it trailing a rival’s drug.

Tecentriq added to a chemotherapy backbone of carboplatin/nab-paclitaxel in first-line non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) boosted median overall survival (OS) to 18.6 months, Roche said, compared to 13.9 months for those getting just chemotherapy.

Survival without the disease worsening (PFS) was lifted to 7 months for patients getting Tecentriq plus chemotherapy, Roche said, versus 5.5 months for the chemotherapy group.

The results from the study, called IMpower 130, come well after pivotal trial wins notched by Merck’s Keytruda this year that have helped catapult that immunotherapy to the forefront of treatment of non-small cell lung cancer.

Roche Chief Medical Officer Sandra Horning said Roche’s data demonstrated Tecentriq was an effective treatment and might lead to additional treatment choices on offer for cancer victims.

“It’s really another data point, another demonstration of the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy with Tecentriq in this disease,” Horning said in an interview.

“Non-small cell lung cancer patients are heterogeneous, and for physicians and patients it can be advantageous to have options.”

The data was released at the European Society of Medical Oncology meeting in Munich.

IMpower130 is one of eight trials Roche has going against NSCLC that rely on Tecentriq.

Its success does not erase Roche’s disappointment this year when an important lung cancer trial, called IMpower 132, pairing Tecentriq with another kind of chemotherapy failed to deliver overall survival data needed to help it challenge Merck’s medicine.

Roche now expects that data to be ready next year. Some analysts have said the delay bodes poorly for investors weighing the relative efficacy of Tecentriq and Keytruda.

In the first half of 2018, Tecentriq chalked up 320 million Swiss francs ($320.80 million) while Keytruda’s were nearly 10-fold higher at around $3.1 billion.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Edmund Blair)