Avastin combination fails to improve survival in Phase III study for pancreatic cancer

Roche announced that a Phase III trial of Avastin (bevacizumab), in combination with Tarceva (erlotinib) plus chemotherapy, failed to meet the primary endpoint of overall survival in the first-line treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer. Nonetheless, the company added Tuesday that the combination therapy demonstrated "some evidence of clinical activity" on secondary endpoints.

In the AVITA study, 607 patients with the disease were randomised to receive Roche's Tarceva plus gemcitabine, which is sold as Gemzar by Eli Lilly, with or without Avastin. Full data will be presented at an upcoming oncology conference, the drugmaker noted, adding that the findings will be further analysed "to determine the extent of benefit" of adding Avastin to the combination therapy of Tarceva and gemcitabine.

Deutsche Bank analysts commented that "pancreatic cancer remains a tough cancer to treat and treatment advances are small and rare. The failure of AVITA would seem disease specific rather than product specific."

Avastin is approved as a treatment for colorectal and non-small-cell lung cancers in the US and the EU, as well as for metastatic breast cancer in the EU. Roche markets the drug worldwide except in the US, where it is sold by Genentech. The treatment generated 3 billion Swiss francs for Roche last year.

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