By Michael Erman and Carl O’Donnell
(Reuters) – Bristol-Myers Squibb Co on Saturday said that an experimental cancer therapy it acquired as part of its $74 billion deal for Celgene Corp produced positive results in a clinical trial.
The company said it will apply for U.S. approval for the treatment for a type of advanced blood cancer by the end of the year.
The treatment, liso-cel, is a newer type of immunotherapy known as CAR-T cell therapy, that takes immune cells from a patient, engineers them to better recognize and attack cancer and infuses them back into the patient.
The study tested three dose levels of liso-cel in the 269 patients with relapsed or refractory large B-cell lymphoma.
Nearly three quarters of the patients responded to the one-time treatment, with 53% experiencing a complete response, meaning no detectable sign of the cancer, according to data presented at American Society of Hematology Conference in Orlando.
The data marks a win for Bristol-Myers after its purchase of Celgene met resistance from some investors who thought that it was overpaying for the cancer-focused biotech.
It is also a positive sign for Celgene investors, who are entitled to received a contingent value right, or CVR, payment of $9 a share if three treatments in development, including liso-cel, achieve timely approvals.
Celgene had forecast annual sales reaching $3 billion for the immunotherapy. If approved, it would lessen some of Bristol-Myers’ dependence on its immunotherapy Opdivo, which has faced stiff competition from Merck & Co’s market leading rival drug Keytruda.
Liso-cel would compete with already approved CAR-T therapies Kymriah from Novartis AG’s Gilead Sciences Inc’s Yescarta. Several other companies are also developing CAR-T cell therapies.
Bristol-Myers closed its deal for Celgene in November, after anti-trust regulators approved it on the condition it divest Celgene’s psoriasis drug Otezla. Amgen Inc agreed to purchase Otezla for $13.4 billion in August.
Bristol-Myers managed to win investor approval for the deal despite resistance from investors Starboard Value LP and Wellington Management, who pushed other investors to vote against it.
(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell and Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)