An international trial involving Peter Mac patients with aggressive colorectal cancer has shown a new combination therapy can dramatically improve survival.

More than 650 patients with colorectal cancer, which had spread elsewhere and was no longer responding to mainline treatments, took part in the BEACON CRC trial.

Patients were randomised to receive either three drugs (encorafenib, binimetinib and cetuximab) as “triplet therapy”, or “doublet therapy” (encorafenib and cetuximab) or a control group.

Median overall survival almost doubled to 9.0 months for triplet therapy and 8.4 months for doublet therapy, compared to 5.4 months for the control group.

Response rate and progression-free survival also improved and there were fewer adverse events compared to the control group, which received the current standard of care.

“These are practise-changing results in a group of patients for whom there is a desperate need for more treatment options,” says Associate Professor Jayesh Desai, a Peter Mac oncologist who was one of the Lead Investigators on the trial.

“Currently these patients have a very poor prognosis, usually another four to six months of life if they stop responding to initial treatments, and this trial has shown a way to dramatically extend this.”

Melbourne sites for the BEACON CRC trial include the Parkville Cancer Clinical Trials Unit (PCCTU), involving patients from Peter Mac and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. 

All trial participants had colorectal cancer with a BRAF gene mutation. Previous efforts to target mutant BRAF in colorectal cancers have showed limited success, due mostly to rapid resistance that develops when targeting BRAF with single drugs.

This trial showed a combination of drugs that effectively shut down multiple cancer-promoting pathways at once can help to overcome this hurdle in many difficult to treat colorectal cancers.

“After almost a decade of trials using different combinations, this represents a major breakthrough for these patients,” Assoc Prof Desai says.

“And, if approved, this will be the first target-driven approach for the treatment of colorectal cancer.”

Results were presented recently at the ESMO (European Society for Medical Oncology) 2019 conference, and the related paper has been published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

Find the paper, titled “Encorafenib, Binimetinib, and Cetuximab in BRAF V600E–Mutated Colorectal Cancer”, here.


For more information contact the Peter Mac Communications team on 0417 123 048.

About Peter Mac

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is one of the world’s leading cancer research, education and treatment centres globally and is Australia’s only public hospital solely dedicated to caring for people affected by cancer. We have over 2,500 staff, including more than 580 laboratory and clinical researchers, all focused on providing better treatments, better care and potential cures for cancer.