) announced that its wholly owned subsidiary, Genentech, has
recently inked a global licensing agreement with Afraxis, Inc.
for developing candidates for an undisclosed novel
The licensing agreement provides Roche with exclusive, rights
to develop and commercialize Afraxis' proprietary compounds on a
Afraxis is eligible for an upfront fee along with research,
development and commercialization milestone payments totaling
We note that Genentech is a part of the Pharmaceuticals
Division of the Roche group with primary focus on oncology along
with immunology, neuroscience, metabolism and infectious
We note that the oncology portfolio at Roche was boosted
recently when the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved
Avastin (bevacizumab) for a new indication in metastatic
colorectal cancer (mCRC). Avastin in combination with
fluoropyrimidine-based irinotecan or oxaliplatin chemotherapy can
be used for treating patients suffering from mCRC.
The new indication now allows patients suffering from mCRC who
were initially treated with Avastin along with an irinotecan or
oxaliplatin containing chemotherapy can now continue receiving
Avastin plus a different irinotecan or oxaliplatin containing
chemotherapy, after the cancer worsens (second-line
We note that the FDA's approval was based on encouraging
results from a phase III study (ML18147). Results from the study
showed that patients continuing with an Avastin-based regimen,
even after the worsening of their cancer, survived longer than
those who underwent chemotherapy alone.
The risk of death for patients, who received Avastin plus
standard chemotherapy as both the first- and second-line
treatment of mCRC, was 19% lower in comparison to patients
receiving chemotherapy alone.
Avastin is already approved by the FDA for treating patients
suffering from mCRC in combination with intravenous 5FU-based
chemotherapy. Roche has also gained approval for Avastin for
treating patients, whose cancer worsened after chemotherapy
Avastin plus fluoropyrimidine-based chemotherapy is approved
in the EU for the treatment of adults suffering from metastatic
carcinoma of the colon or rectum.
Roche carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). However, other large cap
pharma stocks, such as
Eli Lilly and Company
) currently look more attractive with a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).
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