Roche’s bid to extend usage of Avastin have taken a knock with the news that the oncology blockbuster has failed in a late-stage trial as a potential treatment for prostate cancer.

The Swiss major’s Genentech unit has unveiled topline results of a Phase III study investigating the use of Avastin (bevacizumab) in combination with docetaxel chemotherapy and prednisone in men with late stage prostate cancer. The trial did not meet its primary objective of extending overall survival compared to chemotherapy and prednisone alone and the company noted that a preliminary assessment of safety has shown adverse events that have been previously observed in pivotal trials with Avastin.

More details are expected to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June. Hal Barron, chief medical officer at Roche, said that patients with hormone-refractory prostate cancer “are in urgent need of new treatment options [and] it is unfortunate that the study did not meet its primary objective”. He added that “we look forward to sharing the data with the medical community, including the secondary endpoints".

The failure in prostate cancer comes a few weeks after Avastin showed promise in a Phase III trial in women with advanced ovarian cancer, but missed its primary endpoint in a late-stage study in patients with stomach cancer, Roche had previously suggested that gaining approval for prostate cancer could have added up to 1 billion Swiss francs to its already considerable Avastin sales, which reached 6.22 billion francs last year.

Roche said that its “broad development programme” for the drug, which is approved in the USA and Europe for the treatment of advanced stages of colorectal breast, non-small cell lung and kidney cancers (and also across the pond for glioblastoma), in other tumour types will continue as planned.