US biotech Genentech posted a 58% hike in third-quarter profits yesterday on the back of a strong sales for blindness drug Lucentis and a solid performance by its portfolio of cancer therapeutics.

However, signs of weakness in colorectal cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) – considered the main growth driver for Genentech in the coming years – took some of the shine off the figures.

Net income came in at $568 million, while product sales leaped by a third to $1.94 billion in the quarter, helped by a $153 million contribution for Lucentis (ranibuzumab) for age-related macular degeneration which was almost three times the consensus level forecast by analysts. Lucentis was only approved for marketing in the USA at the end of June.

Overall, the cancer franchise put in a good showing, with breast cancer stalwart Herceptin (trastuzumab) up 40% in the quarter at $302 million, still a little behind expectations, and newer entrant Tarceva (erlotinib) for lung and pancreatic cancers advanced 37% to $100 million.

Avastin failed to meet analysts’ consensus sales targets, but still managed a 34% increase to $435 million. The undershoot likely came as a result of slowing take-up of the drug in colorectal cancer and a delay in securing approval in breast cancer. A pending approval in lung cancer by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could lend some new momentum to the product.

Among Genentech’s other key products, arthritis and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma drug Rituxan (rituximab) posted a 12% gain to $509 million, while Xolair (omalizumab) for severe asthma advanced 30% to $107 million.