US biotechnology company, Genentech, yesterday unveiled a strong set of results as its cancer drugs Avastin (bevacizumab) and Herceptin (trastuzumab) really pulled out the stops. Total product sales jumped an incredible 44% to $1.45 billion dollars during the third quarter, while net income was boosted 56% to $360 million dollars.

"Genentech's first nine months of 2005 have been exceptional, with a string of five consecutive positive Phase III trial results and record product sales and earnings," said Arthur Levinson, Genentech's chairman and chief executive. Revenues from its cancer drugs tipped over the $1 billion mark for the first time, as Avastin and Herceptin continued to reel in the money, not only for their approved indications but also for uses outside the first-line advanced colorectal cancer label for Avastin and in the adjuvant setting for Herceptin.

US sales of Avastin jumped 78% to $325 million, while Herceptin was boosted 70% to $215 million. And they were not the only growth stars, as Rituxan (rituximab) also put in a sterling performance, with US sales up 16% to $456 million, while the asthma drug Xolair (omalizumab) rose 51% to $82 million and Raptiva for psoriasis increased 28% to $21 million. Perhaps the one slight disappointment has been Tarceva (erlotinib), an anticancer agent launched in the States in November 2004: it saw growth of just 4% over the second quarter but still added $73 million to Genentech’s coffers for the three month period.

For the full year, Genentech says it forecasts earnings per share growth of 50%. During the first six months of 2006 it plans to seek additional filings for Avastin in first-line non-small cell lung cancer and in first-line metastatic breast cancer, as well as a new label for Herceptin in the adjuvant setting. It is also exploring the use of Avastin in advanced ovarian cancer, having just initiated a Phase III study, and is clearly hoping to make great strides on developing the potential of its anticancer offerings.