It’s smiles all round for Roche this morning after it unveiled an expectation-beating 37% jump in net income to 4.5 billion Swiss francs for the first six months of this year, while profits were boosted 16% to 20 billion francs. Revenues were driven by exceptional performances from its cancer portfolio, headed by MabThera (rituximab), Herceptin (trastuzumab) and Avastin (bevacizumab), as well as continued demand for the flu drug Tamiflu (oseltamivir), triggering the Swiss giant to up its profit forecasts for the full year.

Overall, drug sales grew three times as fast as the global market, up 19%, while the combined sales of its oncology agents jumped 48%. The biggest growth product was Avastin, currently marketed for colon cancer but with new indications in the pot, which soared 119% to 1.4 billion francs. However, the breast cancer drug Herceptin was not far behind, with sales doubling over last year to 1.8 billion francs.

Global stockpiling of Tamiflu by governments also meant revenues from this product soared 62% during the six-month period. However, diagnostics fell on operating profit following heavy investment in ongoing product launches and lower royalty income.

And the future is looking strong as well, with 36 projects in Phase III development, five major new indication filings anticipated during the second half of 2006, and 10 products already in the registration phase. For the full year, Roche reiterated its April forecast of above-market sales growth, with double-digit increases for both the overall group and its pharmaceuticals division. But it now says it expects core earnings per share to rise above sales, while sales and net income are forecast to be significantly better than 2005 - itself a record-breaking year.