Key Avastin data may come early

We may not have to wait as long for Genentech's data on Avastin. The company said that it may know the final results of the study--looking at Avastin as an adjuvant therapy in colon cancer--as early as mid-April. That news came, in turn, from the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project, which is overseeing the study. The timing depends on "disease progression events," which sounds pretty ominous for the 2,710 patients involved, but we hope those events include the positive as well as negative.

The study is designed to see whether a three-drug chemo combination works better with Avastin in patients with Stage II or III colon cancer, when given after surgical removal of tumor(s). If the blockbuster drug shows that it's effective, then it's likely to become even more of a blockbuster. (Or should we say blockbuster-buster?) As you know, Avastin is already approved for lung and breast cancer, and it's OK'd as an initial or secondary treatment for metastasized colon cancer.

A lot is riding on the results of this study. As at least one observer has put it, Avastin is a "pipeline in one drug," and continued growth of its sales depends on continued growth in approved uses. Genentech posted a 47 percent hike in fourth-quarter profits, largely on Avastin sales growth, the Associated Press reports. But the sales increases have slowed, so Wall Street wants more indications to keep driving revenue upward.

- read the AP story in Forbes