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Novartis bone marrow cancer drug meets goal in late-stage study

The logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is seen at its headquarters in Basel October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann
The logo of Swiss drugmaker Novartis is seen at its headquarters in Basel October 22, 2013. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) - An experimental drug from Novartis to treat a type of bone marrow cancer met its primary goal in a late-stage study, the Swiss drugmaker said on Friday.

A Phase III trial found the drug, dubbed LBH589 when combined with bortezomib and dexamethasone, significantly extended progression-free survival in patients with relapsed or relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma compared to bortezomib and dexamethasone alone.

Multiple myeloma is a cancer that starts in plasma cells in bone marrow and disrupts the production of normal blood cells. It affects approximately 1 to 5 in every 100,000 people worldwide each year and typically occurs in those aged over 50.

Novartis said the drug has the potential to become one of the first in a new class of treatments for the incurable disease.

"Given its mechanism of action, LBH589 has the potential to be an important treatment option for multiple myeloma," said Novartis Global Head of Oncology Alessandro Riva.

LBH589 works by blocking a key cancer cell enzyme which causes cell stress and leads to death of these cells. Full results of the data will be presented at an upcoming meeting, Novartis said.

German Biotech company MorphoSys and Celgene are also working on treatments for multiple myeloma.

(Reporting by Caroline Copley; editing by Elaine Hardcastle)

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