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Celgene's Abraxane improved pancreatic cancer survival in trial

(Reuters) - Celgene Corp said on Friday that a clinical trial of Abraxane, its drug to treat breast and lung cancer, improved survival in patients with pancreatic cancer.

The company did not give details of the extent of the improvement, saying it would do so at a medical meeting in January, but said the results were statistically significant.

Patients were given either Abraxane plus the chemotherapy, gemcitabine, or gemcitabine alone. Those in the Abraxane group on average survived longer.

Patients with advanced forms of pancreatic cancer, such as those tested in the Celgene trial, typically live 5.6 to 6.8 months following diagnosis, according to Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic and lead investigator on the trial.

In the United States, about 46,000 patients are diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer each year, he said, and 40,000 die. Only 5.5 percent of all pancreatic cancer patients live for five years.

The side effects seen in the trial were similar to those seen in earlier trials, Von Hoff said, and included a decrease in white blood cells, which can increase the chance of infection, numbness and tingling in the fingers, and nausea.

Analysts welcomed the news.

"This positive result comes somewhat earlier than we had expected, and will come as a surprise to many investors and analysts," said Geoff Porges, an analyst at Sanford Bernstein, in a research note. "It has become almost axiomatic in the oncology world that "nothing works in pancreatic cancer" and this trial has certainly proven an exception to that rule."

The company expects to release detailed data from the trial at a medical meeting in January and plans to file an application with regulators to market the drug to treat pancreatic cancer, as well as breast and lung cancer.

Porges estimates the potential revenue for Abraxane in pancreatic cancer alone could be as much as $1 billion worldwide.

(Reporting By Toni Clarke in Boston. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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