J&J-AbbVie's Imbruvica Positive in Follow-up Lymphoma Study

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Johnson & Johnson JNJ announced a three-year follow-up data from a late stage study, evaluating its cancer drug Imbruvica (ibrutinib) against Pfizer Inc.'s PFE Torisel (temsirolimus) for treatment of patients with relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma (MCL).

Notably, Imbruvica is jointly developed and marketed by J&J subsidiary Janssen Biotech and Pharmacyclics LLC, a subsidiary of AbbVie Inc. ABBV .

Imbruvica is currently approved in the U.S. for treating patients with mantle cell lymphoma or MCL, who have received at least one therapy earlier and for CLL patients with deletion 17p. It is also approved in the EU for treatment of MCL. Significantly in Jan 2017, Imbruvica was approved for patients with marginal zone lymphoma (MZL), requiring a systemic therapy and having received at least one prior anti-CD20 based therapy.

Shares of J&J have outperformed the Zacks classified Large Cap Pharma industry so far this year. The stock has climbed 16.4% with the broader industry's increase of 12.1% during the period.

Data from the phase III RAY study showed that the progression-free survival (PFS) of patients when treated with Imbruvica is four times more (25.4 months) compared with Torisel (6.2 months) at first relapse after one prior line of therapy. Patients who had received over one prior line of therapy, their median PFS significantly increased when treated with Imbruvica in comparison to Torisel (15.6 months vs 6.2 months). The study was conducted on a total of 280 patients. Data showed a median overall survival (OS) with Imbruvica after one prior line of therapy of 42.1 months against 27.0 months with Torisel.

Data from the study was presented at the International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma (ICML).

J&J is presently exploring the potential to expand Imbruvica's label into solid tumors and autoimmune diseases.

Importantly, Imbruvica has one of the most robust clinical oncology development programs in the industry with nearly 30 company-sponsored trials underway. Of these, 14 are in phase III development. The drug is being evaluated in a number of cancer indications and has a multi-billion dollar potential. Another 100 investigator-sponsored trials and external collaborations for Imbruvica are underway around the world.

Per the company's press release, MCL is a rare disease that accounts for 5-10% of all non-Hodgkin's lymphomas. Besides, one in two lakh people in Europe suffer from the disease. Thus, there is a huge market potential for the drug to cater to the unmet needs of patients affected with the disease.

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Zacks Rank & Key Picks

J&J currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). A better-ranked stock in the healthcare sector is Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. REGN , which carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today's Zacks #1 Rank stocks here .

Regeneron's earnings per share estimates increased from $10.16 to $10.52 for 2017 and from $10.90 to $12.10, over the last 60 days. The company has delivered positive earnings surprises in two of the four trailing quarters with an average beat of 0.45%.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

This article appears in: Investing , Business , Stocks
Referenced Symbols: PFE , JNJ , ABBV , REGN

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