EU approves Roche’s Avastin for lung cancer

27 August, 2007:

The European Union (EU) has approved Avastin, made by Swiss drug manufacturer Roche Holding AG, for use in patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

Avastin, according to Roche, is the first in a class of drugs that seek to starve tumours of their blood and nutrients. It had global sales of about $2.5 billion in 2006.

An expert body of the European Union had recommended the drug for approval in non-small cell lung cancer in July 2007.

Avastin will now be prescribed for the treatment of patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer who have not tried other therapies yet, in combination with platinum-based chemotherapy.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer. It is a disease difficult to treat and kills over 3,000 people a day worldwide. It is usually diagnosed at an advanced stage, meaning that individuals diagnosed with the disease typically have a life expectancy of only 8 to 10 months.

Avastin was shown in clinical studies to prolong survival benefits beyond one year.

Lung cancer is an extremely difficult disease to treat, and Avastin has proven that it can prolong the life of patients with non-small cell lung cancer, according to Christian Manegold, Professor of Medicine at Heidelberg University, and lead investigator on a Roche-sponsored study on which the approval was based. A treatment like Avastin that breaks through the one-year survival barrier is a big step forward, he added.

In 2006, Avastin generated annual sales of 2.96 billion Swiss francs ($2.45 billion), rendering it Roche’s third-best selling product behind cancer drugs Herceptin and MabThera.

Avastin, which inhibits the growth of tumours by choking off their blood supply, was first approved in the United States in 2004 for the treatment of advanced colorectal cancer. In the US, it has also been approved for the treatment of lung cancer since October 2006.

In Europe, Avastin won approval for the treatment of advanced breast cancer earlier in 2007.

Scientists believe that targeted drugs, such as Avastin, are the way forward in cancer treatment. These drugs work by killing cancer cells specifically, or by hindering their proliferation, while traditional chemotherapy often kills healthy as well as unhealthy cells, leading to troublesome side effects.





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