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Dow Jones- Roche's Herceptin Extends Life In Aggressive Stomach Cancer

Dow Jones- Roche's Herceptin Extends Life In Aggressive Stomach Cancer

By Hans Schoemaker

ZURICH -(Dow Jones)- Drugmaker Roche Holding AG

(ROG.VX) said Wednesday that new data shows its breast cancer drug Herceptin also shows benefits when used to treat aggressive stomach cancer.   The results, from ToGA, a large international Phase III trial, show that Herceptin significantly prolongs the lives of patients with HER2-positive advanced stomach cancer.

“This is definitely good news,” said Karl-Heinz Koch, an analyst at Helvea, who rates the stock at buy.

“Herceptin was a breakthrough treatment for patients with HER2-positive breast cancer and has become the foundation of care across all stages of HER2-positive breast cancer”, Bill Burns, CEO of Roche’s Pharmaceuticals Division, said in a statement. “The ToGA study shows for the first time that Herceptin extends the lives of patients in a cancer other than breast cancer.”

Stomach cancer is the second most common cause of cancer-related death in the world, with over 900,000 new cases diagnosed each year, Roche said. Approximately 22% of stomach tumors overexpress HER2, or Human Epidermal growth factor Receptor 2, a protein that causes higher aggressiveness in tumors.

Herceptin, on the market since 1998, is marketed in the U.S. by Genentech Inc (DNA), in Japan by Chugai Pharmaceutical Co Ltd (4519.TO) and internationally by Roche.

Roche shares closed at CHF147.10 Tuesday, down 9.5% since the start of 2009.