ZURICH, June 30 (Reuters) - A drug being developed by Roche to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) met main and secondary objectives in two studies, boosting the company's hopes of expanding beyond its core cancer franchise.
The studies of MS treatment ocrelizumab showed the drug, which is injected, slows relapses and the progression of the disabilities that come with the disease when compared with Rebif, an established injectable drug, the company said on Tuesday.
Rebif, made by Germany's Merck KGaA. is already battling stiff competition from a new generation of oral drugs against the debilitating disease.
"Based on these compelling results, we plan to submit the data for review to U.S. and EU regulatory authorities in the first quarter of 2016," said Sandra Horning, Roche's chief medical officer and head of global product development.
Roche said the drug showed a similar amount of adverse effects as Rebif, or interferon, the most common being infusion-related reactions, ones involving the immune system. The incidence of serious adverse reactions associated with the drug, such as serious infections, was also similar.
Roche shares rose 0.3 percent to 264.20 Swiss francs by 0730 GMT.
Roche has several promising non-cancer drugs in late-stage trials, including lampalizumab for a serious eye disease and asthma drug lebrikizumab.
The Basel-based company, the world's biggest maker of cancer drugs, needs to keep rolling out new medicines if it is to head off the threat posed by biosimilars, cheap copies of biotech drugs that could erode its blockbuster cancer treatments like Rituxan and Herceptin.
Besides looking at other diseases, Roche is pinning hopes on a new class of cancer drugs that harness the body's immune system to fight tumours. (Reporting by Katharina Bart; Editing by Keith Weir)