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Avastin gets US approval in kidney cancer

Published on 04/08/09 at 08:08am

Roche's rising star Avastin has won US approval to treat the most common type of kidney cancer, the latest in a range of indications for the oncology drug.

The FDA approved it for use with interferon alpha for people with metastatic renal cell carcinoma, the eighth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US.

Commenting on the approval, chief executive of Roche Pharmaceuticals William M. Burns said: "Avastin has now been approved for five different types of cancer in the US. This underscores our belief in the important clinical benefits that Avastin delivers as we push forward with our ongoing research programs in more than 30 tumour types."

Earlier this year Roche paid $46.8 billion to gain overall control of Genentech, the biotech company behind Avastin, giving it full future rights to the drug.

The treatment was the first in the VEGF-inhibitor class. It works by choking the blood supply that feeds the tumours (anti-angiogenesis), and has been investigated for a number of other cancers, including lung and pancreatic cancer.

In the US, Avastin is approved in colorectal cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer, glioblastoma, and renal cell carcinoma.

It performance has buoyed Roche's results over the last few years. In its latest figures for the first six month of this year, Roche's pharma sales grew 11% in local currencies (11% in Swiss francs) - twice the global market rate - driven by its leading oncology medications like Avastin, and also Tamiflu (influenza), Pegasys (hepatitis) and Lucentis (ophthalmology).

Avastin has been available in Europe since the end of 2007 for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced and/or metastatic renal cell cancer in combination with interferon alpha, and it is also approved for the treatment of the advanced stages of colorectal cancer, breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and kidney cancer.

Roche is pursuing more clinical programmes investigating the use of Avastin in various tumour types, in a development programme that is expected to include over 40,000 patients worldwide.

However, less positively for Roche, the blockbuster recently failed to show success in treating early-stage colon cancer. A phase III trial found it did not lower the risk of the disease returning in patients who have recently undergone surgery to remove a tumour.

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