Tarceva, which is expected to win European marketing approval within the next 12 months, is a once-daily oral tablet that has completed phase III trials.
The drug has been described by Roche as 'offering new hope to people suffering from lung cancer' and the first medicine in its class 'with a proven survival (rate) and without some of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy'.
Ketchum secured the brief after a competitive pitch against an intriguing line-up, understood to have included Porter Novelli, Resolute Communications and start-up outfit Tonic Life Communications.
Resolute is the retained global agency for the brand, reporting to Roche's HQ in Switzerland. PN's UK healthcare practice, meanwhile, is directed by Rebecca Hunt, who quit a UK PR manager job at Roche this year (PRWeek, 28 January).
The Ketchum account team on Tarceva - which is already approved in the US - is being led by associate director Sebastien Desprez.
'The focus will be to support the forthcoming launch and the need to raise awareness of lung cancer, which achieves little media interest,' he said.
The decision to hand the work to Ketchum grows the agency's oncology work for Roche UK from four to five brands.
It already promotes Herceptin (for breast cancer), MabThera (for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), Xeloda (for colon cancer) and Bondronat (for bone cancer).
Ketchum is handling media relations, which will target healthcare professionals in the UK, as well as consumer awareness initiatives for Tarceva.