Novartis Optimistic About New Cancer Treatment


A new treatment for Multiple Myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, has shown promising results, the drug’s manufacturer Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS) said Friday. Phase III testing of compound LBH589 saw a significant extension of time without disease progression.

LBH589 is a pan-deacetylase inhibitor. A key enzyme that causes cellular stress and death is blocked by LBH589. This potentially places the drug as a first-in-class anticancer agent for Multiple Myeloma patients. It has also been beneficial in patients who have not experienced results from other treatments. Novartis specified that it had potential in “heavily pretreated and bortezomib-refractory multiple myeloma patients.”

Multiple Myeloma occurs when plasma cells become cancerous, and multiply, turning into myeloma cells. The number of myeloma cells elevate the blood’s plasma cell count, inhibiting the production of healthy cells. Currently, there is no cure, and patients generally undergo some form of treatment for the rest of their lives.

Out of every 100,000 people, it is estimated between 1 and 5 develop the disease, which has a five-year survival rate of 44 percent. The American Cancer Society calculated that in the U.S. in 2013, 22,350 new cases were diagnosed, and there were 10,710 deaths stemming from Multiple Myeloma.

The trial paired LBH589 with bortezomib and dexamethasone. The results had a significant impact on prolonging progression-free survival for those suffering from relapsed, or relapsed and refractory Multiple Myeloma when compared to bortezomib and dexamethasone alone.

Bortezomib is an existing treatment, often given to newly diagnosed, and previously treated Multiple Myeloma patients. It was the first approved proteasome inhibitor, and kills cancerous cells by blocking proteasome activity. Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid, and is used when a person’s adrenal glands do not naturally produce enough of a hormone that dexamethasone closely resembles. It has several uses, including the treatment of certain cancers.

Alessandro Riva, Global Head, Oncology Development and Medical Affairs, Novartis Oncology issued a statement about the Phase III results, saying “this study show improved outcomes for these multiple myeloma patients who otherwise have few options to treat this incurable disease.” Riva said it was the way in which LBH589 acted that makes it have “the potential to be an important treatment option for multiple myeloma.”

The risk of developing Multiple Myeloma increases with age. It is uncommon in people under 35, according to the American Cancer Society, with most cases diagnosed in people 65 or older. There is a slight increase in risk for men over women, and African Americans are more likely to have the disease. Multiple Myeloma appears to run in families, when a person’s brother, sister, or parent has Multiple Myeloma, they become four times as likely to develop it as well.

Currently, Multiple Myeloma is treated with a a combination of drugs, chemotherapy, and potentially stem cell transplantation. Novartis said it will reveal the full results of its study during an upcoming medical congress.

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