November 22, 2023
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Amgen leukemia drug cures 39 percent of treated patients, study finds


Amgen’s new leukemia drug cured 39 percent of pediatric patients who received treatment, the Thousand Oaks company said Oct. 3 after publishing results of a new study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Blincyto, which treats a rare form of the disease known as precursor B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, sent 27 patients out of 70 treated with the recommended dosages of Blincyto into complete remission within the first two cycles of treatment.

In all, 93 patients were enrolled in the study. An Amgen spokeswoman said other patients “received Blincyto using other dosing regimens.” Treated patients ranged in age from seven months old to 17 years old, with the median age of patients being eight years old.

The most common side effect reported was anemia, which researchers found in 36 percent of patients. About 30 percent of patients in the study also reported headaches and nausea.

Fatal pancreatitis has also been reported in patients taking the drug in other studies.

On Sept. 1, the FDA approved the drug’s use to treat pediatric patients with the disease under its accelerated approval program, which treats serious diseases and fills unmet medical needs.

The drug has been criticized though for its high cost of $178,000 per year for treatment.

Amgen also struck gold through new and previous partnerships on Oct. 3.

Germany-based Exome Diagnostics announced Amgen will explore the potential to advance drug development using the company’s liquid biopsy diagnostics.

Liquid biopsies use blood tests to detect cancers by finding cancer cells from a tumor or pieces of a tumor in blood.

Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Amgen also struck a partnership with Indian pharmaceutical giant Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. as it seeks to expand in India. Under that agreement, Dr. Reddy’s will market and distribute osteoporosis drug Prolia, colon and rectal cancer drug Vectibix and Xgeva, which is used to prevent bone fractures in people with tumors that have spread to the bone.

The companies already work closely together after forming a partnership in 2015 to help several Amgen drugs, including Blincyto, multiple-myeloma treatment Kyprolis and cholesterol reducing drug Repatha, gain approval for use in India.

Amgen may also reap rewards from a partnership formed between two of its competitors.

On Oct. 3, Ireland-based Allergan announced a deal with AstraZeneca for the global rights to develop and commercialize MEDI2070. Allergan will pay AstraZeneca $250 million upfront. The deal could potentially be worth $1.27 billion after Allergan pays AstraZeneca milestone and sales payments.

AstraZeneca acquired the rights to develop the drug with Amgen in April 2012 when Amgen and AstraZeneca formed a collaboration to jointly develop and commercialize five drugs. Because of that, Amgen could see up to a third of the money from that partnership.

• Contact Philip Joens at