Genentech, the world's second-biggest biotechnology company, said yesterday that its Avastin drug prolonged survival in lung-cancer patients...

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Genentech, the world’s second-biggest biotechnology company, said yesterday that its Avastin drug prolonged survival in lung-cancer patients by about two months, according to a study. The company’s shares soared 25 percent.

Patients who received Avastin plus chemotherapy lived about 12.5 months, compared with 10.2 months for those who got only chemotherapy, the Bethesda, Md.-based National Cancer Institute (NCI) reported.

Avastin won U.S. approval for colon cancer last year. Roche Holding, Genentech’s majority owner, was cleared in January to sell the medicine in Europe.

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The new results will help double sales of Avastin to as much as $4 billion a year, said Sven Borho, a partner at Orbimed Advisors in New York. Genentech, based in South San Francisco, is counting on Avastin to surpass Amgen as the largest U.S. seller of cancer drugs by 2010.

“This is big,” said Borho, whose firm has more than $5 billion under management, including about 3.7 million Genentech shares as of December. “The Avastin story is unfolding.”

Shares of Genentech jumped $10.92 to $55.

Avastin is designed to interfere with blood-vessel growth, a process called angiogenesis. The drug was the first approved to fight cancer by choking off the blood supply to tumors.

The Avastin results released yesterday were preliminary, according to the NCI, which sponsored the study. The committee that supervised the trial recommended releasing the results because the study met its goal of showing Avastin improved survival.