Swiss drugmaker Roche's key drug Avastin has received the approval for wider use to treat metastatic colorectal cancer in the European Union.

Swiss drugmaker Roche's key drug Avastin has received the approval for wider use to treat metastatic colorectal cancer in the European Union. Now Avastin can be used in combination with any chemotherapy, including Roche's oral chemotherapy Xeloda (capecitabine), for first and later treatment lines in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. The final EU decision on the extended use for the Xeloda chemotherapy was expected imminently. An estimated 400,000 people will be diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer in 2008.

Avastin, which works by choking off the blood supply that tumours need to grow, is vital to Roche's prospects as it is expected to be one of the world's biggest-selling drugs.

In the United States, Avastin is marketed by Biotechnology Company Genentech which is majority owned by Roche. South San Francisco, California-based Genentech reported a 6.4 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit but sales of several drugs, including Avastin, fell short of investor expectations.