Roche Holding AG's MabThera cancer drug has received backing from Europe to treat patients whose chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) returns, the Swiss drugmaker said on Friday.

Patients with relapsed or refractory disease can live ten months longer without their disease progressing compared with those receiving chemotherapy alone, a clinical trial showed, prompting the European Union's Committee on Human Medicinal Products (CHMP) to issue a positive recommendation.

Physicians will soon be able to prescribe MabThera... in combination with chemotherapy to patients who have been treated for the disease but whose cancer has returned or have not appropriately responded to therapy, Roche said in a statement.

MabThera is already approved for first-line use in previously untreated CLL in the EU and in many other countries.

CLL is the most common type of leukaemia in adults, accounting for around 30-40 percent of all forms of leukaemia in Western countries.