Roche rejigs UK comms for cancer drug portfolio

Roche is to shake up UK product comms within its weighty cancer drug portfolio. An agency pitch for MabThera is on the cards and the firm has brought in fresh backing for Avastin.

Roche wants to create 'synergies' in product comms by bundling into the same agency its accounts for drugs that could in the future be used in combination.

It has thus moved the UK account for bowel cancer drug Avastin out of Resolute Communications and handed the brief to Ketchum.

But Ketchum has lost its hold on MabThera, the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma treatment, which is up for pitch: four undisclosed agencies will fight it out for the work.

Ketchum takes control of Avastin at a crucial time, with Roche set to apply to license the product as a treatment for breast and lung cancer.

Ketchum UK health MD Avril Lee said: 'Avastin has the potential to radically reshape how cancer is treated. It could become a cornerstone of treatment strategy.'

Resolute joint MD Paul Blackburn said: 'Roche's strategy makes sense. We did some award-winning work on Avastin. It's a great account to have – we're sorry we won't be working on it.'

Roche only brought in Resolute to handle UK PR for Avastin 16 months ago (PRWeek, 9 July 2004). The agency scooped the global
account for the drug earlier in 2004, and this contract is unaffected by the shake-up.

Similarly, Ketchum's international remit for MabThera is also unaffected, while Red Door Communications continues to work on its UK brief promoting MabThera as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

Ketchum continues to handle UK PR for four other Roche cancer drugs: Tarceva (lung), Xeloda (bowel, breast and pancreatic), Herceptin (breast) and Bondronat (metastatic bone disease).

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