Verastem’s blood cancer drug succeeds in late-stage trial


(Reuters) – U.S. drug developer Verastem Inc said on Wednesday its drug to treat some types of blood cancer met the main goal in a late-stage study by prolonging the time patients lived without their disease worsening.

Shares of Verastem rose 30 percent to $5.00 in premarket trading.

Verastem’s drug, duvelisib, showed a superior progression-free survival rate than the current standard of care, Novartis’s Arzerra, when tested on patients suffering from cancers that affect cells of the immune system, Verastem said.

The oral drug was tested in 319 patients suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma (SLL), who did not respond to initial treatment or whose cancer had relapsed.

CLL and SLL affect the same lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell, causing them to grow and multiply uncontrollably.

There will be about 62,000 new cases of leukemia in the United States this year, of which CLL will account for about a quarter, according to the American Cancer Society.

Verastem said it would file for a marketing application for duvelisib in the first half of 2018.

Duvelisib also met the main goal in a trial testing the drug as a treatment for indolent non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a slow-progressing cancer of the blood cells, the company said.

Verastem licensed duvelisib from Infinity Pharmaceuticals Inc last year.

Reporting by Tamara Mathias in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza

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