Roche has presented data from a major study which shows that its blockbuster Herceptin, in combination with standard chemotherapy prior to breast cancer surgery, completely eradicates HER2-positive tumours in 45.5% of women in the early stages of the disease.

Results from the GeparQuattro study, which were presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference in Berlin, enrolled 1,510 patients, 453 of whom had HER2-positive disease. The results are consistent with other Herceptin (trastuzumab) neoadjuvant studies, such as NOAH (NeOAdjuvant Herceptin, which included 228 evaluable HER2-positive patients) and TECHNO (Taxol-Epirubicin-Cyclophosphamid-Herceptin Neoadjuvant).

The company said that “this is an impressive finding since the proportion of women achieving total tumour eradication with standard chemotherapy alone is less than 30%”. The Basel-based group added that the GeparQuattro study highlighted the efficacy of early treatment of HER2- positive breast cancer “and raise the prospect of a cure”.

The data was presented days after Roche revealed its first-quarter sales which included a contribution of 1.23 billion Swiss francs from Herceptin, a rise of 11%.

Meantime, Roche noted that a biweekly dosing schedule of Xeloda (capecitabine) enabled safe delivery of higher daily doses in the treatment of advanced breast cancer. Data from a Phase I/II trial, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, showed that a seven-days-on/seven-days-off regimen, called "dose dense," was generally well tolerated up to 2,000 mg twice daily (4,000 mg/day).

Roche said that this provides a potential alternative to the standard Xeloda dosing of 14 days on and seven off. Phase II trials are being conducted to determine the efficacy of the new dosing schedule and it is also being tested in combination with the firm’s Avastin (bevacizumab).