First-quarter sales at Roche Holding AG , the Swiss drugmaker that recently bought Genentech for $46.8 billion, rose 8 percent due to strong sales of cancer medicines, in line with forecasts.

Roche said it was confident of meeting its full-year target of mid-single-digit sales growth for both divisions and the group although it said it would update its full-year outlook to include the impact of the Genentech deal when it posts its half-year results.

Pharmaceutical companies have been relatively insulated from the recession as health care is traditionally one of the last areas that consumers cut back on spending, but even so they are still seeing some slowdown.

Quarterly sales rose to 11.6 billion Swiss francs ($10.17 billion), in line with the average estimate of 11.65 billion in a Reuters poll of 16 analysts.

Investors are keen to know more about Roche's plans to integrate Genentech after it said the U.S. group's Chief Executive Arthur Levinson would stay on as chair of a new board.

Roche trades at nearly 12 times expected 2010 earnings, a healthy premium to other big European drugmakers -- Swiss rival Novartis AG , GlaxoSmithKline Plc , AstraZeneca Plc and Sanofi-Aventis SA -- thanks to its strong portfolio of cancer drugs and Genentech's growth prospects.

(Reporting by Katie Reid)