Days after announcing its $2.9 billion takeover of Pharmion, Celgene Corp has been boosted by data from two late-stage studies which confirm that Revlimid, an analogue of thalidomide, when used with the steroid dexamethasone, is far more effective than dexamethasone alone as a treatment for previously-treated multiple myeloma.

The results, which were published in The New England Journal of Medicine, come from two similar studies with a total of 704 patients, one based in North America and one drawing on patients in Europe, Israel and Australia. The international study showed a high overall response rate of 60.2% in those using the drug, compared to 24% in the placebo group. Complete response, or remission, was 15.9% versus 3.4%.

In the North American group, overall response was 61% on Revlimid (lenalidomide), compared to 19.9% in the placebo group. Complete response was 14.1% versus 0.6%. Also in the North American trial, median overall survival in the Revlimid group was 29.6 months, compared to 20.2 months in the control group but in the international group, Celgene noted that "the median overall survival had not been reached" at the time of last analysis in the Revlimid group and was 20.6 months in the placebo group.

Revlimid is approved in the USA and in Europe to treat patients with multiple myeloma who have received at least one prior therapy.