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UPDATE 3-Roche shares climb after trial wins in cancer, haemophilia
November 20, 2017 / 7:00 AM / a month ago

UPDATE 3-Roche shares climb after trial wins in cancer, haemophilia

* Tecentriq, Hemlibra trials meet study goals

* The drugs are pillars of Roche growth strategy

* Roche playing catch-up in cancer immunotherapy (Adds comment from analyst, Shire shares, details about Roche share rise)

By John Miller

ZURICH, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Roche announced two trial wins for its cancer and haemophilia drugs on Monday, boosting its shares and weighing on the stocks of its main rivals.

The Basel-based health group said its immunotherapy Tecentriq had made advances against lung cancer when mixed with other treatments, and its haemophilia agent Hemlibra had reduced bleeds in a new group of patients.

Roche’s shares rose as much as 5.6 percent, adding roughly $11 billion to its market capitalisation and making it the best performer on the Swiss Market Index.

Shares in Shire, a rival in the haemophilia market, slipped as much as 2 percent. AstraZeneca shares slipped 0.5 percent.

With lung cancer easily the largest oncology market, Roche’s Impower 150 trial of Tecentriq, Avastin and chemotherapy has been closely watched as the Swiss drugmaker seeks to catch rivals in cancer immunotherapy.

Roche said the cocktail “provided a statistically significant and clinically meaningful reduction” in the risk of disease worsening or death compared to Avastin plus chemotherapy in first-line treatment of advanced non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

“We are extremely encouraged by these results and will submit these data to health authorities globally with the goal of bringing a potential new standard of care for the initial treatment of lung cancer,” said Sandra Horning, Roche’s chief medical officer.

Roche, which will present the data at a conference in Geneva in December, added initial observations for the Tecentriq combination’s impact on overall survival were “encouraging” and will be reported in the first half of 2018.

In a separate Hemlibra study, Roche’s new $482,000-per-year drug reduced the risk of treated bleeds in patients who have not developed resistance to standard therapy, compared to those receiving no preventative treatment.

GAINING GROUND

Hemlibra’s latest result comes after the medicine was approved last week in the United States for patients with resistance to clotting factors.

Roche said it would now work with regulators to expand the treatment to all haemophilia sufferers.

“Roche has delivered a best case scenario with both Tecentriq’s Impower150 and Hemlibra’s Haven 3 studies meeting their primary end points,” said Jefferies analyst Jeffrey Holford.

Tecentriq and Hemlibra, along with multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus, are pillars of Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan’s plan to offset declining sales of older medicines with new blockbusters.

So far, however, Tecentriq’s sales - expected at around $500 million this year - pale in comparison to better established agents Keytruda from Merck and Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Keytruda, which analysts see reaching $3.7 billion in sales this year, has an edge in lung cancer after U.S. approval as a first-line treatment. Estimates for Opdivo foresee 2017 revenue rising nearly four-fold to $4.8 billion.

Still, Monday’s Impower 150 readout, while giving only bare details, may help Roche make up ground, since results from Merck’s and BMS’s own combination lung cancer trials are still some way off.

Merck in October delayed its Keytruda-and-chemotherapy combination study while withdrawing a European application for first-line lung cancer approval.

Meanwhile, BMS’s lung cancer trial of Opdivo and another checkpoint inhibitor, Yervoy, is not due to read out until next year.

AstraZeneca’s similar immuno-oncology drug cocktail against lung cancer failed earlier this year, raising concerns about the approach as chemotherapy combinations like Roche’s rack up trial wins. (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields and Andrew Heavens)

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