JNJ-AbbVie cancer drug Imbruvica succeeds in late-stage trial

FILE PHOTO: The Johnson and Johnson logo is seen at an office building in Singapore January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas White

(Reuters) - Johnson and Johnson said on Tuesday a combination therapy containing its blockbuster cancer drug Imbruvica significantly improved survival in blood cancer patients, compared with drugs currently used as the standard of care.

In the study, Imbruvica, jointly sold with AbbVie Inc, was given to newly diagnosed chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) patients aged 70 or younger, in combination with Roche AG’s Rituxan.

The combination was tested against Rituxan administered with chemotherapy drugs fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, and patients showed a 65 percent reduction in risk of disease progression or death, AbbVie said in a statement.

“We have been eagerly awaiting a new treatment regimen that could help younger chronic lymphocytic leukemia patients. These findings further support Imbruvica-based therapy as an efficacious first-line treatment for many patients with CLL,” said Danelle James, head of clinical science at Pharmacyclics LLC, a unit of AbbVie.

The treatment also significantly improved overall survival of patients, compared to the standard chemoimmunotherapy regimen, the two companies said.

The drug was first approved in November 2013 for adult patients with mantle cell lymphoma who have received at least one prior therapy.

CLL is one of the two most common forms of leukemia in adults and is a type of cancer that can develop from cells in the bone marrow that later mature into certain white blood cells.

About 115,000 patients in the United States suffer from the disease with nearly 20,000 new diagnoses every year, AbbVie said.

Reporting by Tamara Mathias and Saumya Sibi Joseph in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel