Study boosts Roche’s Avastin in breast cancer

* Avastin meets goal in breast cancer clinical trial

* Study shows Avastin can be added to common chemotherapies

* Roche stock up 4.1 percent

ZURICH (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG, the world’s largest maker of cancer drugs, said on Monday that Avastin met its primary endpoint in a Phase III breast cancer trial.

Roche said Avastin, which it markets with Genentech Inc, increased the time breast cancer patients live without the disease worsening and the study confirmed that Avastin can be combined effectively with commonly used chemotherapies.

Avastin was tested in combination with either taxane-based, anthracycline-based or Xeloda (capecitabine) chemotherapies. The results will be submitted for presentation at a future medical meeting, the company said.

Analysts at Morgan Stanley said the data provided another confirmation of Avastin’s role in breast cancer, and would give doctors a wider choice of background therapies for use with the drug.

Avastin was first developed for bowel cancer but its use in breast cancer is expected to be a key driver of sales in future.

“We expect the stock to trade up on this news, as Street expectations for Avastin penetration in MBC (metastatic breast cancer) increase,” they wrote in a research note.

“However, given the still-unresolved Genentech minority take-out, we anticipate near-term Roche upside to be limited.”

Roche is seeking to buy the 44 percent of Genentech it does not already own for $43.7 billion. But Genentech’s share price has fallen well below the $89 offer price as concerns mount about Roche’s funding of the bid, given the credit crisis.

Roche stock was up 4.1 percent at 156.60 Swiss francs by 0850 GMT, outperforming a 2.3 percent rise in the European drugs sector.

(Reporting by Jason Rhodes and Ben Hirschler; Editing by Rupert Winchester)


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