Roche’s cancer drug Avastin has racked up yet another green light in Europe, this time for the first-line treatment of patients with advanced kidney cancer.

The drug, which works by choking off the blood supply to tumours thereby preventing their growth, has previously been hailed ‘a pipeline in a product’ because of its potential in treating several different tumour types, and is already on several markets for breast, lung and colorectal cancer.

This latest clearance in kidney cancer is a major boon both for the firm and patients suffering from the disease, which is often only diagnosed in the advanced stages and for which there are currently limited treatment options. Furthermore, kidney cancer is highly resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, leaving doctors with little choice on how to control the disease in patients.

In the pivotal Phase III AVOREN trial supporting the drug’s approval, Avastin (bevacizumab), in combination with interferon, a standard treatment for advanced kidney cancer, showed an ability to almost double progression-free survival compared to IFN alone.

Survival benefit?
Specifically, AVOREN included 649 patients from 101 study sites across 18 countries who received treatment with either Avastin and IFN or placebo and IFN. Progression-free survival was almost doubled from a median of 5.4 to 10.2 months, while tumour response was significantly increased from 12.8% with interferon alone to 31.4% when Avastin was added to the regimen. Roche also noted that the study also showed a trend towards improved overall survival.

“Avastin effectively doubles the time in which patients live without their disease getting worse, so this approval has the potential to change the treatment landscape for this disease, where treatment options have been limited,” commented William Burns, head of Roche’s Pharmaceutical Division.

Kidney cancer kills over 100,000 people per year worldwide.