Afinitor's breast cancer OK could add $1.5B to Novartis sales

Novartis ($NVS) has another notch for Afinitor's belt. The drug won a coveted indication in advanced breast cancer, after data showed it improved progression-free survival by an average of 4.6 months. The new use could be a blockbuster on its own: Analysts expect the approval to add $1.5 billion to peak sales.

Approved to treat kidney and pancreatic cancers, Afinitor is the first mTOR inhibitor to win a breast cancer nod. Adding it to Aromasin, a Pfizer ($PFE) aromatase inhibitor, can help overcome treatment resistance that develops with that class of drugs.

In a sense, Afinitor is stepping in where Roche's ($RHHBY) Avastin left off, Bloomberg notes. Roche's treatment had its breast cancer approval revoked by FDA last year, after a contentious debate. The company says it's planning a new breast cancer study this year, in a bid to reaffirm Avastin for that use.

In the meantime, the studies to demonstrate Afinitor's breast-cancer utility are ongoing. Novartis hopes that it will not only prove that the drug staves off progression, but that it extends patients' lives. Deustche Bank analyst Tim Race said that the data so far is "pointing in the right direction" for an overall survival benefit.

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