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September 16, 2002
Volume 80, Number 37
CENEAR 80 37 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347


Lawsuit win saves one cancer drug, while another fails in clinical trials


Genentech faced significant ups and downs in its cancer drug development efforts last week. It successfully defended itself in a lawsuit filed by Chiron over the breast cancer drug Herceptin. But only a few days later, Genentech announced that one of its promising oncology products failed to show efficacy in clinical trials.

Chiron originally sued Genentech in June 2000, alleging that Herceptin infringed a Chiron patent covering monoclonal antibodies that bind selectively to human breast cancer cells. Herceptin is a monoclonal antibody that blocks the overproduction of the HER2 protein by tumor cells. A California district court jury found Chiron's patent to be invalid.

As a result, Genentech will not have to pay royalties to Chiron. Herceptin sales reached $182 million in the first half of 2002, up 13.5% from last year, and total more than $1 billion since the drug's launch in September 1998. Chiron is expected to fight to prove its patent is valid.

However, expectations for Genentech's next big product, Avastin, were dashed when the firm said the cancer drug did not meet the primary clinical end point of progression-free survival. The company was studying Avastin's effectiveness in relapsed metastatic breast cancer patients.

Avastin, also a monoclonal antibody, binds to vascular endothelial growth factor, a secreted protein that stimulates the formation of new vessels supplying blood to tumors. Genentech is continuing clinical studies of the angiogenesis inhibitor in colorectal and lung cancers.

The setback was a blow for Genentech--the company's stock fell nearly 10% the day after it announced the results--and for others developing much-promoted anti-angiogenesis drugs.


Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2002 American Chemical Society

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[C&EN, Aug. 13, 2001]

[C&EN, May 27, 2002]

Genentech navigates troubled waters
[C&EN, Apr. 19, 1999]

Great Expectations
[C&EN, Aug. 10, 1998]

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