A brand new approach to treating patients suffering by an aggressive form of blood cancer could increase survival rates 10-fold to 20 years, Celgene CEO Mark Alles told CNBC on Monday.
Celgene in addition to Bluebird Bio announced on Sunday updated, positive results by their early stage study on a therapy for people with multiple myeloma — a blood cancer which develops in plasma cells, affecting hundreds of thousands of people inside the U.S. each year.
The Phase 1 clinical study demonstrated encouraging results in treating patients with late-stage relapsed-refractory multiple myeloma. The treatment will be a type of so-called CAR T-cell therapy — taking a patient’s own immune cells, called T cells, genetically manipulating them to attack specific proteins on cancer, in addition to infusing them back into the patient.
“Ten years ago, the median survival for myeloma was about two years,” Alles said on “Squawk Box” at the American Society of Hematology annual meeting in Atlanta. “Today, with CAR T … we’re going to see people live 20, 30 years without the disease.”
“The quality of responses will be unbelievable,” Alles said about the treatment. “We have an almost 100 percent response rate,” he added. “the idea’s unprecedented.”
CNBC asked Celgene to clarify whether Alles meant Celgene’s CAR T treatment or additional currently approved drugs might result in people living longer.
A spokesperson for Celgene said: “Interestingly, the idea’s a little of both. We see anecdotal cases of patients living 20 years in addition to beyond with sequencing of the many current options available [which definitely weren’t there when they were diagnosed]. With brand new therapies like CAR T, the desire will be which we continue to see more of these cases.”
On the study results, Bluebird stock soared 22 percent to around $209.50 per share on Monday. Celgene shares gained 2.6 percent to $108.79. Analysts, including a team by Suntrust, raised their cost targets on both companies.
Celgene plans to begin enrolling patients This specific month for a larger, potentially pivotal trial which could position the brand new treatment to become the third approved CAR T-cell therapy.
Alles said Monday the company will investigate whether patients are “cured” or rather “in a chronic stage of remission.”
“The data follow up will tell,” he said.
—Reuters contributed to This specific report.