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Trial blow for cancer medication producer

A TRIAL of cancer drug Avastin has shown that it does not prevent the recurrence of colon cancer in patients who have undergone surgery, Swiss group Roche Holding AG said yesterday.

Roche's annual sales of Avastin, its most important drug, have soared to 5.2 billion Swiss francs (US$4.4 billion) and some analysts estimated sales could more than double if the drug was found to delay progression of the disease in early-stage cancer patients.

The study - evaluating Avastin plus chemotherapy for colon cancer immediately following surgery compared with chemotherapy alone - failed to meet its main target of lowering the risk of the cancer returning, Roche said.

"While we are disappointed the study did not meet its primary endpoint, our initial review of the data leads us to continue to believe Avastin may be active in patients with early-stage colon cancer," Hal Barron, Genentech chief medical officer, said.

The 2,700-patient trial was designed to show whether Avastin plus chemotherapy, followed by six months of Avastin alone, results in more patients being cancer free after three years.

The drug is designed to cut off the blood supply to tumors and is already approved for advanced cancer of the colon, lung and breast.


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