Roche blockbuster Avastin does well as brain tumor therapy

Roche Holdings, which is trying to extend the franchise on its blockbuster cancer medication Avastin, reported a new study that offers hope for some patients with brain tumors and for the company that this bet will pay off. 

Roche ($RHHBY) says that adding the Genentech drug to radiation and chemotherapy resulted in extended progression-free survival.  

"This study showed that people with glioblastoma, a particularly devastating and aggressive cancer without many treatment options, lived significantly longer without their disease worsening when Avastin was added to radiation and temozolomide chemotherapy," Roche says in a statement.

Final data for overall survival won't be available until 2013, but so far there are no new safety issues and the adverse effects are in line with what was expected, the company says.

Avastin, which last year generated $2.6 billion, is one of the top 10 best selling cancer drugs, but has not always performed as the world leader in cancer treatments has hoped. The U.K.'s cost containment agency just last month turned down Roche's application for Avastin to be used on breast cancer patients in conjunction with chemotherapy treatment Xeloda. It said that while it delayed the progression of breast cancer than chemotherapy alone, there was insufficient evidence that patients ultimately lived longer.

Roche already had the FDA rescind its approval of Avastin for breast cancer treatment last year because the agency didn't believe the risks to patients outweighed the benefits. Avastin is approved in the U.S. as a first line or second line treatment for colorectal cancer, and the company recently released data that starting its continued use with chemotherapy can help patients live longer.

Meanwhile, Avastin's success at another use--wet age-related macular degeneration--created problems for its sister drug Lucentis. That injection was developed from the same parent as Avastin, modified for use specifically in the eye. But eye doctors determined that Avastin could treat wet AMD, and at a much smaller price. A recent study showed it has more side effects than Lucentis but it still gets used.

Two of its other drugs, Rituxan and Herceptin, which saw sales growth of 9% and 11% in the first 6 months of this year, are now outpacing Avastin, Reuters reports.

- here's the release 
- read the Reutersstory

Special Report: Avastin - Top 10 Best Selling Cancer Drugs

Related Articles: 
NICE turns down Avastin for breast cancer 
Continuing Avastin use in some colorectal cancer treatments extends life 
Biomarkers rescue Amgen's MAb, support Roche's Avastin