Genentech's

(DNA)

colon cancer drug, Avastin, showed a statistically significant increase in patient survival rates when combined with a standard form of chemotherapy, the company announced Monday.

Genentech said late-stage clinical test results of Avastin combined with a standard chemotherapy regimen called FOLFOX-4 achieved a 26% reduction in the risk of death compared with patients receiving FOLFOX-4 alone. Median survival was 12.5 months for the combination therapy compared with 10.7 months for the FOLFOX-4-only therapy.

"This study provides additional evidence that adding Avastin to chemotherapy results in a significant survival benefit for patients with either untreated or relapsed metastatic colorectal cancer," said Dr. Hal Barron, the company's chief medical officer. Metastatic cancer refers to the disease that has spread to other parts of the body.

The results have encouraged Genentech and its majority owner

Roche

to seek Food and Drug Administration approval of Avastin as a combination therapy with FOLFOX-4 for patients with advanced colon cancer. "Avastin is the first and only targeted therapy to demonstrate improvements in survival in both first- and second-line metastatic colorectal cancer," Barron said.

The test results come from a study sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. More details of these preliminary results will be presented at a cancer symposium in late January in Hollywood, Fla.

Shares of Genentech rose $1.13, or 2.3%, to $49.85 after being halted for 35 minutes.

The FDA approved Avastin on Feb. 26, 2004, as a first-line treatment for metastatic colorectal cancer in combination with another form of chemotherapy called IFL. In clinical trials, patients receiving Avastin plus IFL had a median survival of 20.3 months compared with a median survival of 15.6 months for patients receiving only IFL.