March 16, 2015 / 9:12 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Pharmacyclics cancer drug successful as combination therapy - independent panel

(Adds details; updates shares)

March 16 (Reuters) - An independent panel recommended unblinding a late-stage study testing Pharmacyclics Inc and Johnson & Johnson’s Imbruvica, after the treatment was successful against two similar forms of cancer in combination with other drugs.

Pharmacyclics, which recently agreed to be acquired by AbbVie Inc for about $21 billion, said Imbruvica showed a statistically significant improvement in survival without disease progression, the study’s main goal.

Pharmacyclics’ shares closed up about 0.7 percent on Monday, while AbbVie’s stock closed up about 2 percent.

Imbruvica, which is co-marketed by Pharmacyclics and J&J, is already approved for four cancer indications in the United States.

The study is testing Imbruvica in combination with bendamustine and rituximab (BR), against a placebo in combination with BR, in 578 previously treated patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) or small lymphocytic lymphoma.

Imbruvica is already approved for CLL patients who have had at least one prior therapy.

Detailed results of the study will be submitted to health authorities for future labeling considerations, Pharmacyclics said.

The company has forecast U.S. sales of Imbruvica to hit $1 billion this year. Worldwide sales are forecast to reach $5.8 billion by 2020, according to the average analyst estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters Cortellis. (Reporting by Natalie Grover in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings)

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