Eli Lilly’s top-selling pancreatic cancer drug, Gemzar (gemcitabine), could sees its fortunes boosted further after the company unveiled late-stage data showing its benefit in advanced breast cancer when combined with Sanofi-Aventis’ Taxotere (docetaxel). The drug offered similar efficacy, but with an improved safety profile, when compared to a regimen of Roche’s Xeloda (capecitabine) plus Taxotere.

The Phase III, 300-patient study, presented at this week’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, compared the two combinations as first- or second-line treatment in patients with metastatic breast cancer over a 16-month period. Gemzar in combination with Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Taxol (paclitaxel) is approved for use in the USA, Europe and more than 60 countries around the world for treating late-stage breast cancer [[03/12/04e]], [[07/06/04d]]. It reeled in over $300 million dollars during the first quarter of this year for the US giant [[19/04/05a]].

Said Stephen Chan, primary investigator of the study: “The combination of efficacy and improved tolerability seen in this study with Gemzar/docetaxel suggests that we’ve taken an important step forward where we can treat the cancer while helping women live their everyday lives more comfortably and with less risk of side effects.”

According to the World Health Organisation, more than one million people worldwide will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year, making it the most common cancer among women.