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Novartis Says Glivec Data May Support Wider Use

Posted on: 05/27/2003

Novartis Says Glivec Data May Support Wider Use

Tue May 27, 2:09 AM ET

ZURICH (Reuters) - Clinical data to be presented at a major medical conference will show Novartis AG's Glivec drug may one day treat a variety of cancers beyond those for which it is already approved, Novartis said on Tuesday.

Europe's number three drugmaker said data unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (news - web sites) (ASCO) meeting from May 31 to June 3 would support Glivec's approved use in chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST).

"But even more important at this ASCO meeting are the data that demonstrate that this drug may have the potential to benefit patients in a number of other cancers," David Epstein, the head of Novartis's cancer program, said in a statement.

The conference will get a look at data on Glivec's use in patients with prostate cancer (news - web sites), hypereosinophilic syndrome, a form of cancer called DFSP, Kaposi's sarcoma and carcinoid tumors in addition to its effectiveness in CML and GIST.

Epstein had told Reuters last week that Glivec, already nearing $1 billion in annual sales, may have even more potential if trials show it can work against a broad range of tumors.

Analysts are especially interested in hearing how Glivec -- marketed as Gleevec in the United States -- works in combination with standard therapy against prostate cancer.

The ASCO meeting will also hear data on experimental cancer drug PTK787, which Novartis thinks may help treat brain and colon cancer by restricting the flow of blood to tumors.

Even though the two forms of cancer for which Glivec is already approved are relatively rare, the drug generated 2002 sales of $615 million and continues to grow quickly.

Glivec interferes with the pathways that stimulate the growth of tumor cells. It has also been shown to inhibit platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF), a receptor that sits on cells surrounding the cancer cell.

Blocking PDGF could help drop the pressure that builds up inside a tumor and makes it harder for drugs to enter and kill the cancer cell. If so, Glivec could help other drugs like Aventis's Taxotere enter prostate cancer cells.

Epstein had declined to discuss trial data to be presented at ASCO for Glivec and Taxotere in prostate cancer, but he hinted that the data looked good by saying Novartis had committed itself to doing a phase II trial for this use.

Glivec is also being tested in brain and breast cancer (news - web sites).

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