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New cancer drug approvals

German drugs group Bayer and partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals have gained approval to sell Nexavar in Japan for treating advanced kidney cancer, while Japanese authorities last week confirmed that the drug had been granted priority review status to treat cancer of the liver.

German drugs group Bayer and partner Onyx Pharmaceuticals have gained approval to sell Nexavar in Japan for treating advanced kidney cancer, while Japanese authorities last week confirmed that the drug had been granted priority review status to treat cancer of the liver.

Nexavar, which comes in pill form, is already approved as a therapy for kidney cancer in Europe - and in the US, where Bayer and Onyx compete with Nexavar against Wyeth's Torisel and Pfizer's Sutent. Its developers hope that the latest approval in Japan, with a market for kidney cancer estimated at approximately 10,000 patients, will fuel earnings growth as neither rival has yet secured a foothold in the sector.

The product is also being evaluated for efficacy against other cancers, including breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. It is approved in Europe and the US for treating liver cancer.

Roche gains wider EU Avastin use

Roche's share price crept up on the Swiss market by 0.1 per cent on the news that the firm had received European approval for broader uses for its key anti-cancer product, Avastin.

The drug can now be used in combination with any chemotherapy for first as well as later treatment lines in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. This includes co-administration with the company's own Xeloda (capecitabine) product.

Analysts were not concerned by the relatively small increase in stock price, as a recommendation for approval for wider use had already been given in December 2007. The news was seen as positive for the company.

Avastin, which is marketed in the US by Genentech and whose sales of the product there fell short of investor expectations, works by restricting the blood supply to tumours, curtailing their growth. It is one of the most significant products in Roche's current line up.

28th January 2008

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