Driven by the approval and rapid uptake of Roche/Genentech/Chugai’s Avastin (bevacizumab), the market for ovarian cancer drug treatments in seven major markets will more than triple by 2018, according to a new study.

Sales of these treatments overall in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK and the USA will grow from $449 million in 2008 to just under $1.5 billion in 2018, according to the study, from Decision Resources.

Following its launch for the treatment of ovarian cancer in the US and the European Union in 2011 and in Japan in 2013, Avastin - already a blockbuster and Roche’s biggest-earning product - will garner major market sales of nearly $900 million in 2018, says the study.

In February, Roche announced that new late-stage trial data showed that a combination of Avastin and chemotherapy followed by maintenance therapy with Avastin boosted progression-free survival in women with the disease compared to chemotherapy alone. The data will be presented at the 2010 American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in June.

Ovarian cancer is the world’s sixth most commonly-diagnosed cancer, with 230,000 women diagnosed with the disease and 140,000 dying from it every year. Despite its relatively low incidence compared to other cancers, drug development activity for the indication is significant, with 11 potential treatments currently in Phase III clinical trails. Farletuzumab - being developed by Japanese major Eisai with Morphotek, the US biotechnology firm specializing in oncology which Eisai acquired for $325 million in March 2007 - is likely to be the first emerging agent to launch for ovarian cancer, following its expected approval in 2014 in the US and Europe and in 2016 in Japan, says the report.

Platinum-based treatment will continue to be the standard of care for first- and second-line treatment of platinum-sensitive patients, but ovarian cancer treatment is entering an era of molecularly targeted treatment, it adds. Experts surveyed for the report indicate that polyadenosine 5’-diphosphoribose polymerase (PARP) inhibition “is the most exciting drug development strategy in this indication,” notes Decision Resources analyst Marcus Hoyle. “In 2014 in the US and Europe, AstraZeneca’s PARP inhibitor olaparib (also known as AZD2281 and KU-0059436) will launch for the treatment of the niche mutated BRCA1/BRCA2 ovarian cancer population,” _he adds.

Moreover, drug development opportunities continue to exist for therapies which are able to delay or prevent progression to platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, and experts questioned for the study believe that such gains are most likely to come from novel targeted agents. __“To this end, significant opportunity remains in identifying other genetic characteristics, in addition to BRCA1/BRCA2 mutations, that will lead to the development of novel molecularly targeted drugs,” said Mr Hoyle.