Roche adds data to Avastin's ovarian-cancer drive

Roche may have hit a setback in marketing Avastin as a breast cancer treatment, but it's forging ahead in developing the drug for ovarian cancer. And the company has gained more support for that push. Avastin met its goal in a new ovarian cancer trial. The Oceans study showed women given a course of chemotherapy plus Avastin, and then Avastin alone, lived longer without their cancer worsening.

The company's announcement didn't say how long Avastin boosted progression-free survival; presumably, the details will come later at a scientific conference. In one previous study, adding Avastin to the drug mix helped women survive without worsening disease for about two months--18.3 versus 16 in the chemo-only patients.

In another, the progression-free survival benefit was about four months, 14.1 months versus 10.3 months in the chemo-only patients. Those two studies looked at Avastin as a first-line treatment, while the latest one tested the drug as a second-line treatment in women whose cancer had returned.

Roche has already asked European regulators to approve Avastin for ovarian-cancer use, and it plans to ask the FDA for its blessing later this year, the company said in a statement. If the drug does end up losing its FDA approval for breast cancer--Roche has appealed that decision--then a new use in ovarian cancer might help ease the pain. Analysts aren't sure, however, whether a progression-free survival benefit will be enough to persuade regulators. And so far Avastin hasn't shown an improvement in overall survival.

- read the statement from Roche's Genentech unit
- see the Reuters coverage
- get more from the Wall Street Journal