Roche CEO still optimistic on new breast cancer drug

Swiss drugmaker Roche's logo is seen at their headquarters in Basel, Switzerland January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

VIENNA (Reuters) - Roche is convinced a new breast cancer drug will have a significant role in treating the disease despite recent trial results that disappointed analysts, the Swiss drugmaker’s chief executive said in an interview published on Sunday.

Trial results released last week showed mixing Perjeta with Roche’s established Herceptin treatment gave patients only a slight benefit.

The results hit Roche shares, and analysts said they increased the chance of the company’s revenues suffering when its $7 billion-a-year blockbuster Herceptin, which was approved in 1998, is exposed to competition from cheaper rivals.

When asked whether he had been too optimistic on Perjeta and misled investors in an update on the drug in March, Roche CEO Severin Schwan said: “No.”

“We are convinced that Perjeta will also play a significant role at an early breast cancer stage, where healing is possible,” he told Swiss weekly Sonntagszeitung.

“The risk of suffering a relapse is reduced by nearly 20 percent by Perjeta, on patients with a high risk of relapse even more.”

Schwan said Roche’s business was performing well and he was confident the group would reach its full year targets.

Roche has a 2017 target for a low- to mid-single-digit increase in sales, with similar growth in core earnings per share.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Mark Potter