Updated from 8:20 a.m. EST

Genentech

(DNA)

shares surged Friday on news that the company and its Swiss partner may seek U.S. approval of their cancer drug Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer.

Shares surged $8.07, or 13.8%, to $66.70, as J.P. Morgan, Prudential and Deutsche Securities upgraded the stock.

Genentech and Roche said that a study of a combination therapy using Avastin plus the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel showed improved progression-free survival of metastatic breast cancer compared with chemotherapy alone. The findings were based on a phase III trial currently under way involving 722 women with previously untreated metastatic breast cancer. The trial was sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

Phase III is the last stage of testing before a drug is submitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.

Avastin is currently used in combination with chemotherapy drugs to treat colorectal cancer and the combination is in trials as a treatment for nonsmall cell lung cancer. Avastin keeps tumors from growing by inhibiting new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis), while chemotherapy attacks the cancer itself. In the most recent quarter, Avastin sales surged to $202.8 million from $38.1 million in the year-ago period.

"This study is very important for two reasons: it demonstrates that Avastin has clinical benefit when used in combination with chemotherapy in first-line metastatic breast cancer and reinforces our belief that targeting angiogenesis can result in patient benefit in multiple tumor types, including colorectal and non-small cell lung cancers," Genentech said.

This is the second time in 10 days that Genentech has reported promising clinical data for one of its cancer drugs. On April 6, the company said Rituxan had met goals in a late-stage clinical trial for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Rituxan, which has been approved for treating non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, is the company's top selling drug and is co-marketed with

Biogen Idec

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Genentech is also evaluating the use of Avastin for adjuvant and metastatic colorectal, kidney, breast, non-small cell lung, pancreatic, ovarian and prostate cancers.