Roche Holding AG share price down, suffers disappointment from failure of cancer drug trial

December 21, 2014 8:50 am

Roche Holding AG shares fell by the most in over five years as the Swiss company reported discouraging results from a study of two of its newer breast cancer drugs, dubbed Marianne, curbing hopes for stronger sales in one of its major markets.

According to the company’s statement, the breast cancer drug Kadcyla did not manage to yield greater results compared to an existing treatment. Using Kadcyla alone helped patients live for a similar amount of time without their disease worsening as when it was combined with Roche’s Perjeta treatment. Moreover, both treatments achieved similar results compared to the older medicine Herceptin used together with chemotherapy.

The Chief Medical Officer of Roche – Ms. Sandra Horning said in a statement: “We had hoped to show improvement in progression-free survival without the use of traditional chemotherapy. While Marianne didn’t achieve this result, we will continue to study these medicines, as well as investigational treatments for other types of breast cancer, with the goal of improving outcomes for patients.”

Roche also announced that it is ending a late-stage study of its gantenerumab Alzheimer’s treatment after it turned out ineffective. Dropping the experimental medicine underlined the difficulties drugmakers face of treating the disease which affects 44 million people around the world.

However, from the commercial point of view, Kadcyla’s failure to present an added benefit in breast cancer treatment is more damaging for the company as it dented hopes to bolster sales in an area it has long dominated.

All three treatments, Kadcyla, Perjeta and Herceptin, are approved for treatment of breast cancer in patients with genetic mutation resulting in the uncontrolled growth of breast cells. Kadcyla is approved for inoperable cancer that has stopped responding to other treatments. Its sales surged 148% to CHF371 million in the first nine months.

However, the disappointing study results mean that forecasts for annual Kadcyla sales of CHF2.5 billion in 2020 would “have to come down significantly”, according to Fabian Wenner, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux.

Roche expressed its disappointment with the trials’ results and explained that the data which were gathered over the time of the studies would be used for future research.

Roche Holding AG plunged 6.34% on Friday to settle at CHF270.40 per share in Zurich, valuing the company at CHF233.37 billion.

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