Roche, Pfizer cancer meds fail trials

Talk about a double whammy: Two big cancer drugs failed late-stage trials that could have broadened their use considerably. Roche's Avastin didn't make the grade against prostate cancer, failing to improve overall survival in combo with chemotherapy and prednisone. And Pfizer's kidney and gastric cancer drug Sutent flopped against breast cancer in two separate studies.

For Roche, this latest Avastin failure makes it two out of three of the big studies expected this year. The drug performed well in an ovarian cancer study, but failed to meet its endpoint in a gastric-cancer trial. Had the drug beat prostate cancer in this latest study, it was expected to add somewhere between 500 million and 1 billion swiss francs, or $471 million to $943 million. The setback means that sales forecasts for the company may need cutting by up to 2 percent, analysts tell Reuters.

In Pfizer's case, this was the second type of cancer Sutent has failed to beat over the past year; earlier, Pfizer stopped a trial of the drug in advanced colon cancer. One of the new studies looked at Sutent as a first-line treatment with chemo in patients with HER-2 negative breast cancer. The other focused on patients who had been previously treated. In neither case did the drug significantly improve progression-free survival.

Both companies say they intend to continue their development programs for the drugs. Roche is studying Avastin in other tumor types and in earlier stages of the disease. Pfizer continues to look at Sutent as a treatment for solid tumors such as non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, and others.

- get the Avastin release
- check out Pfizer's release
- read the Bloomberg article
- see the Reuters story
- find more news from Reuters
- get the InPharm piece