Roche’s flagship cancer drug Avastin won yet another gold star yesterday after performing well in a late stage trial assessing its potential in extending progression free survival in women with breast cancer.

Data from a Phase III clinical study of Avastin (bevacizumab) in combination with various chemotherapies showed that it met its primary endpoint of increasing the time women with previously treated advanced HER2 negative breast cancer lived without the disease getting worse compared to chemotherapy alone, effectively supporting the drug’s use as a second-line therapy.

“This is good news for women with advanced breast cancer as nearly all women require additional therapy after their initial treatment,” explained William M Burns, chief executive of Roche’s Pharmaceuticals Division. “RIBBON-2 is the first phase III study to show that Avastin may also offer benefits in the second-line setting, and we look forward to sharing the data with healthcare authorities around the world,” he added.

Analysts also seemed to welcome the news, with Marco Schwender and Martin Koch at private bank Wegelin noting: "Yet another test result that boosts broad-spectrum cancer drug Avastin's reputation. Even if there is occasional criticism of the drug, the positive aspects clearly outweigh this,” reports Reuters.

Wonder drug?
Avastin is an antibody that works by cutting off the blood supply to tumours thereby starving them of oxygen and other nutrients essential for cancer metastases, and is widely regarded as a pipeline in product because of its survival benefits across a range of different tumour types.

Currently, the drug is approved on both sides of the Atlantic as a treatment for colorectal cancer, non-small lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma and as a first-line therapy for breast cancer, while in the US it has also been cleared for glioblastoma.

Avastin is already pulling in sales well in excess of £4 billion a year, and its potential is currently being assessed in a number of other cancers - including ovarian and prostate – which, if successful, could swell its already substantial turnover even further.