UPDATE 1-Novartis' Tasigna beats Glivec in 18-mth study

* New data confirms previous 12-mth study in leukaemia

* Eyes on Phase III study from rival Bristol-Myer’s Sprycel

* Sprycel and Tasigna vying for top spot in CML

(Adds details, background, shares)

ZURICH, June 4 (Reuters) - Swiss drug-maker Novartis NOVN.VX said 18-month results from a study confirmed its Tasigna cancer drug is more efficient in slowing down chronic myeloid leukaemia (CLM) than older medicine Glivec.

A previous study had already shown Tasigna exceeded Novartis’ Glivec, its second-biggest selling drug, in disease progression over 12 months.

The latest data comes just ahead of a late-stage study due to be published at a key cancer meeting this weekend, showing how rival drug Sprycel from Bristol-Myers Squibb BMY.N compares with Glivec.

Physicians and investors will look closely at the data to get a sense of how Tasigna compares with Sprycel as Novartis and Bristol-Myers strive to become the next first-line treatment for the blood cancer. [ID:nLDE6520CX]

Novartis is relying on Tasigna to replace sales of Glivec as it loses patent protection over the next few years, while strong results for Sprycel would bolster Bristol-Myer’s oncology franchise.

At 0747 GMT, shares in Novartis were trading 0.7 percent higher, slightly outperforming a 0.4 percent rise in the European pharmaceuticals sector .SXDP. (Reporting by Katie Reid and Lisa Jucca; Editing by Erica Billingham)