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Velcade moves up to second line treatment

Published on 28/04/05 at 12:50pm

Ortho Biotech's Velcade has received approval as a second-line treatment for patients with multiple myeloma in Europe, advancing it from its existing third choice status.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common blood cancer, accounting for 1% of all cancers and 2% of all cancer deaths. More than 18,000 people in the EU die of the disease every year, with only 30% of those who develop the disease surviving longer than five years.

Velcade (bortezomib) is a monotherapy injection and will be available to patients who have received at least one prior therapy and who have already undergone, or are unsuitable for, bone marrow transplantation.

The new approval was based on clinical trials comparing the drug to the standard therapy, high dose dexamethasone, with 55% more patients surviving on Velcade as a second line therapy.

Eric Low, executive director, International Myeloma Foundation UK, commented: "If cutting-edge treatments such as Velcade can be used to treat at an early stage, this is good news for patients. The myeloma community will continue to support any advances in the treatment of this disease."

Co-developers Ortho Biotech, the biotech arm of Janssen-Cilag, and Millennium Pharmaceuticals are investigating the drug in around 80 clinical trials in Europe and the US for its use in all stages of multiple myeloma and other solid tumours and haematological cancers.

If Velcade is shown to be effective in treating solid tumours, investors say it could reach peak sales in excess of $1 billion, otherwise the drug is only likely to reach the $500 million mark.

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