SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - An experimental drug that had essentially been written off as a failure dramatically extended the lives of some of the sickest colon cancer patients, its maker, Genentech Inc., said Monday.
The news surprised Wall Street, sent the biotechnology company's stock soaring and boosted the spirits of researchers working with similar drugs in a field plagued by recent setbacks.
Genentech's Avastin is the most advanced drug in this new class of medicines, which are intended to choke off the blood supply to cancer tumors. The work was pioneered by Dr. Judah Folkman some 30 years ago.
"The fact that this extended life is a very major medical breakthrough," said Folkman, a researcher at Boston's Children's Hospital. "You can't do any better than that. This will set the standard."
Genentech said patients with late-stage colon cancer who received Avastin with chemotherapy drugs lived longer than expected.
The company, based in South San Francisco, offered few details, saying it would release the results of its experiment on more than 900 colon cancer patients at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago next month.