Genentech Colon Cancer Drug Safe Enough to Continue Research

Study involves Avastin for early treatment.

Biotechnology company Genentech Inc. said Monday that it will continue a late-stage study of Avastin focusing on early-stage colon cancer, following an independent safety analysis.

The current study involves an Avastin treatment combination with the chemotherapy drug Folfox. It has been ongoing and Genentech expects final results in the middle of 2009.

Enrollment in a separate study being conducted by partner Roche, involving chemotherapy drugs Folfox and Xelox with Avastin, was halted in February of 2006 because of a higher rate of deaths. In May of 2006, Roche began enrolling patients again.

Avastin is already approved as treatment for colon cancer that has spread, but not for the early-stage form of the disease. It is also approved to treat lung and breast cancer, and was the company's best-selling drug during the second quarter, rising 18 percent to $704 million.

Shares of Genentech fell 63 cents to $82.90 in midday trading. The stock has traded between $65.35 and $99.14 over the last 52 weeks.

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