Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Genentech Cancer Drug May Help Fight MS

Genentech Cancer Drug May Help Fight MS
By Amanda Janis/Business Editor

Genentech makes Rituxan in Vacaville. (Courtesy photo)

One of the drugs manufactured for commercial use at Genentech's Vacaville facility may have the potential to treat multiple sclerosis.
A study of the nation's top-selling oncology therapeutic, Rituxan, and its effect on relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis showed positive initial results, announced Genentech and Biogen Idec, co-marketers of the drug in America. Data will continue to be analyzed, and submitted at an upcoming medical meeting, the companies said.

In a prepared statement, Dr. Alfred Sandrock, Biogen's senior vice president of neurology research and development, called the data encouraging. He noted that the companies "look forward to learning more about the potential of Rituxan as a therapy to treat MS."

In addition to relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, the drug is being studied as a possible treatment for primary progressive multiple-sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases.

Rituxan was approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat a specific type of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1997, and given the green light the following year by the European Union. In February, the FDA approved its use for the same indication in combination with CVP or CHOP chemotherapy, or following CVP chemotherapy treatments.

Genentech spokeswoman Caroline Pecquet previously told The Reporter that should new uses for the drug be approved, the company would expect to increase production locally. She noted that the Vacaville facility is a vital component of the biotech giant's manufacturing process.

Development of new uses for existing products is in line with Genentech's "Horizon 2010" strategic plan, goals of which include bringing into development at least 20 new molecules and marketing at least 15 new products or new uses for existing products.

Amanda Janis can be reached at business@thereporter.com.

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