Roche extends immunotherapy fight to breast cancer

(Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche is to present data on its experimental immunotherapy drug in breast cancer next month, extending the novel approach to fighting tumours to another cancer type.

Early clinical results with the drug, known as MPDL3280A, in so-called triple negative breast cancer will be revealed at the Dec. 9-13 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, the company said on Thursday after announcing third-quarter results.

The Roche product belongs to a drug class known as anti-PD-L1 treatments that help the body’s immune system fend off cancer by blocking a protein used by tumours to evade disease-fighting cells.

Developed first for melanoma, these medicines are also showing promise in a range of other tumour types.

The Roche medicine is the first to generate clinical results in triple negative breast cancer, which does not respond to either of two kinds of hormonal therapy or drugs that target HER2 receptors, such as Roche’s own Herceptin.

Roche’s MPDL3280A, which is not yet approved for any type of cancer, is already being tested in melanoma, as well as lung, bladder, kidney, bowel and blood cancers.

Some analysts believe the new immunotherapy drug class could generate more than $30 billion in annual sales for the industry as a whole by 2025, reflecting both the wide range of patients who could benefit and the high cost of the medicines.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler in LONDON; editing by Keiron Henderson