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Amgen cancer drug Kyprolis outperforms rival

Jackson Burke
Cancer drug shows promise

Biopharmaceutical firm Amgen potentially may have scored a win with its new cancer drug, Kyprolis. Kyprolis, a proteasome inhibitor used in the treatment of a type of plasma cancer called multiple myeloma, was acquired by Amgen in its $10.4 billion purchase of Onyx Pharmaceuticals in 2013.

According to the results of comparative trials released by Amgen, "patients with relapsed multiple myeloma treated with Kyprolis lived twice as long without their disease worsening, demonstrating statistically and clinically significant superiority over [rival drug] Velcade."

"It is an unusually positive event for patients," Amgen EVP of Research and Development Dr. Sean Harper told CNBC's "Power Lunch. "

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"We believe scientifically that Kyprolis could be a better drug than the existing drug in that class called Velcade, which is really part of the backbone of therapy for multiple myeloma, and that ultimately, in head-to-head clinical studies, we would be able to demonstrate superiority. Not only with respect to the efficacy for treating the underlying cancer, but also to have less of a propensity to cause some of the nerve damage in the feet and hands that is a real limiting issue for Velcade. This study… demonstrated that superiority."

Multiple myeloma is the second most common hematologic cancer, after non-Hodgkins lymphoma, with 24,050 new cases currently estimated in 2014 by the National Cancer Institute. It manifests itself as collections of abnormal plasma cells collecting in the bone marrow, which interferes with the production of new, healthy blood cells. It is considered incurable, but does respond to treatments that can lengthen the life of patients. Multiple myeloma kills over 10,000 people per year.

In the clinical trial, the patients who received Kyprolis went an median 18.7 months before their disease worsened. Patients who received the current market standard drug, Takeda Pharmaceutical's Velcade, went an median 9.4 months.

However, the study did report higher rate of cardiac and renal failure for patients who took Kyprolis.

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"We did see a slight increase in some of the general toxicities that are seen with this class of drug," said Dr. Harper, "Overall, though, the benefit/risk equation is extremely favorable. We also saw a much lower rate of peripheral neuropathy, the damage to the nerves and hands and feet, which is a really an important issue [with] this class of drug."

In January, Amgen filed for approval of Kyprolis with the Food and Drug Administration. With the result of this study, Amgen will petition the FDA to approve the use of Kyprolis with a steroid for patients who failed at least one regimen of treatment.