ZURICH (Reuters) – Swiss drugmaker Roche on Friday said its immunotherapy Tecentriq combined with its Avastin medicine helped people with the most common form of liver cancer to live longer than with an older drug from Germany’s Bayer.

Median overall survival for patients with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or that which cannot be surgically removed, getting Tecentriq and Avastin had not been reached but exceeded the 13.2 months of those on Bayer’s drug, sorafenib, Roche said.

Roche is steadily expanding Tecentriq’s uses against different cancers as it plays catch-up against better-selling immunotherapies Keytruda from Merck and Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb. Liver cancer is common in China, Roche’s No. 2 market after the United States and an engine of the Basel-based company’s growth.

“For the first time in a decade, we are seeing a treatment that has improved overall survival for people with unresectable hepatocellular carcinoma compared with the current standard of care,” said Levi Garraway, Roche’s chief medical officer, in a statement.

More than 750,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with HCC every year, with most of the cases in Asia and almost half of all cases in China.

Roche said it would seek to have the Tecentriq-Avastin cocktail approved as soon as possible for liver cancer.

(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by David Goodman and Louise Heavens)

tagreuters.com2019binary_LYNXMPEFAL1FS-VIEWIMAGE