May 18, 2011 / 6:18 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Roche to present progress in cancer drugs

* To give updates on skin, lung and ovarian cancer drugs

* Says skin cancer drug met primary endpoint in phase III

* To present positive results on Avastin in ovarian cancer (Adds details, background)

ZURICH, May 18 (Reuters) - Roche Holding AG ROG.VX will present data on four key cancer drugs, including Avastin in ovarian cancer, at this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, the Swiss drugmaker said on Wednesday.

Roche is hoping the data will remind markets that it still boasts one of the strongest pipelines in the industry and remains a leader in cancer.

The Basel-based group is trying to get back on track after hitting a number of product setbacks last year, while demand for Avastin has weakened after U.S. authorities proposed revoking its approval in breast cancer.

Roche said a phase III study showed women with platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer, who had not responded to initial chemotherapy, lived longer without the disease getting worse when treated with Avastin combined with chemotherapy, as opposed to chemotherapy alone.

Roche is banking on the use of Avastin in this setting to drive future sales growth and is planning to file for approval in the United States at the end of the year. It has already filed for approval in ovarian cancer in Europe.

Roche also said it would present data from a phase III BRIM3 study on vemurafenib, a new drug to treat the deadliest form of skin cancer, showing the drug met some primary endpoints, but could have possibly serious side effects.

The group said the study showed vemurafenib achieved a statistically significant improvement in survival and progress-free survival in people with previously untreated BRAF V600 mutation-positive metastatic melanoma. [ID:nLDE74A03N]

At the ASCO meeting from June 3-7, Roche is also presenting late-stage data on Tarceva in non-small cell lung cancer and mid-stage data on MetMAb in lung cancer.

The company said the first phase III study of Tarceva in a Western population with a form of advanced lung cancer showed patients lived longer without their disease getting worse when initially treated with Tarceva compared to platinum-based chemotherapy.

The data also highlights Roche’s drive to identify patients that will respond best to the treatments as the studies on Tarceva, MetMAb and vemurafenib involve companion diagnostics. (Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Erica Billingham)

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