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ZURICH, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Roche got a double dose of positive trial news on Monday, with its immunotherapy Tecentriq mixed with other drugs succeeding against lung cancer in one study and its hemophilia drug Hemlibra notching a win in a new group of patients.
With lung cancer easily the largest oncology market, Roche's Impower 150 study of Tecentriq, Avastin and chemotherapy has been closely watched as the Swiss drugmaker seeks to catch up with 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 added initial observations for the combination's impact on improving overall survival are "encouraging" and will be reported in the first half of 2018.
Roche plans to present the data at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Immuno Oncology Congress in Geneva in December.
In the separate Hemlibra study, Roche said the drug cut the risk of treated bleeds in patients who have not developed resistance to standard therapy, compared to those receiving no preventative treatment.
This latest result comes after $482,000-per-year Hemlibra was approved last week in the United States for patients who have developed resistance to clotting factors.
Roche said it would now work with regulators to expand the treatment to all hemophilia sufferers.
Tecentriq, along with Hemlibra and multiple sclerosis drug Ocrevus, is a pillar of Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan's plan to offset declining sales of older medicines with new blockbusters.
So far, however, Tecentriq's sales 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.
By comparison, latecomer Tecentriq's haul is modest, with around 500 million francs in revenue expected for 2017.
Still, Monday's result in the Impower 150 study may help Roche make up ground, since readouts 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 called Keynote-189 while withdrawing a European application for first-line lung cancer approval.
BMS's lung cancer trial of Opdivo and another checkpoint inhibitor, Yervoy, called Checkmate-227 is not due to read out until next year.
Moreover, the initial failure of AstraZeneca's similar cocktail of immuno-oncology drugs against lung cancer has at least raised speculation that BMS's approach could share the same fate. (Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)