Roche preps full data on blockbuster hopeful for breast cancer

After the FDA dropped its breast cancer label on Avastin this month, Swiss pharma giant Roche could regain some steam in early December when it presents full data on its late-stage experimental breast cancer drug pertuzumab. There's a lot riding on the success of the drug, which analysts have estimated could bring in about $2 billion in annual revenue if approved.

At the annual CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS), which starts Dec. 6, the company will highlight full data on its Phase III pivotal trial that compared a treatment combo of pertuzumab, Herceptin and chemo to chemo and Herceptin alone in patients with aggressive forms of HER2-positive breast cancer. While the company has already said pertuzumab showed that it helped patients live longer without their cancer getting worse, the devil will be in the details, as the market success of the drug could depend on just how much of an improvement the drug offers.

Roche is looking to pertuzumab to build on its lead in treating HER2-positive breast cancers, for which it now markets Herceptin. Like Herceptin, pertuzumab also binds to the HER2 protein, but the experimental drug targets different regions of the protein than Herceptin, bolstering Roche's argument that the two drugs used together complement each other. Pertuzumab could also help support Roche's breast cancer drug franchise once Herceptin runs into competition from copycat drugs.

"The market is materially undervaluing pertuzumab in HER2 breast cancer, which will help negate the potential negative impact of Herceptin biosimilars," said Citigroup analyst Andrew Baum, as quoted by Dow Jones Newswires.

Stefan Frings, head of medical affairs oncology at Roche, reaffirmed in an interview with Dow Jones that the company plans to file for approvals of pertuzumab by the end of this year.

- here's the release
- see Dow Jones' coverage

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