Celgene Corp has scored another success in the clinic with its cancer agent Abraxane, this time as a treatment for advanced pancreatic cancer.

Eagerly-awaiting full data from the Phase III MPACT study show that  Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) in combination with gemcitabine in treatment-naive patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in overall survival compared to patients receiving gemcitabine alone (8.5 versus 6.7 months). Abraxane plus gemcitabine demonstrated a 59% increase in one-year survival (35% vs 22%) and double the rate of survival at two years (9% vs 4%) as compared to gemcitabine alone; the latter is marketed by Eli Lilly as Gemzar.

The combo also demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in key secondary endpoints, including a 31% reduction in the risk of progression or death with a median progression-free survival (PFS) of 5.5 vs 3.7 months  and an overall response rate of 23% compared to 7%.

Celgene quoted Pippa Corrie of Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, UK, who noted that "treatment options for patients with advanced pancreatic cancer are very limited, with average life expectancy around six months". The announcement of the MPACT results showing significant improvements in overall survival "lasting up to two years in some cases, is a major step forward in the battle".

Abraxane was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the first-line treatment of non-small cell lung cancer in combination with carboplatin in October, having been available for breast cancer since 2005.

The results were released ahead of a presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium in San Francisco on Friday.