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Roche asks EU to approve Avastin for advanced breast cancer

Roche Holding AG, the world's biggest maker of cancer drugs, asked European Union regulators to approve its Avastin medicine for use as a primary treatment of advanced breast cancer. The filing is based on a study that shows combining Avastin with chemotherapy doubled the time women live without their breast cancer progressing, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said in an e-mailed statement today. Breast cancer is the leading cause of cancer death worldwide in women. Roche aims to expand sales of Avastin, its fastest-growing drug, with new research that shows the medicine works when used earlier and also in different types of cancer. Some analysts predict annual sales of the drug may climb to between $5 billion and $10 billion if it wins approval for new uses. Avastin is the first treatment that inhibits angiogenesis – the growth of a network of blood vessels that supply nutrients and oxygen to cancerous tissues. Avastin targets a naturally occurring protein called VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor), a key mediator of angiogenesis, thus choking off the blood supply that is essential for the growth of the tumour and its spread throughout the body (metastasis). Avastin was approved in February 2004 in the US and has received full approval in EU and Switzerland in January 2005. (Roche, Bloomberg)