Novartis has posted promising late-stage data on a new treatment for multiple myeloma which shows that the drug improves progression-free survival when combined with two already-marketed drugs.

The compound in question is called panobinostat and top-line results from a Phase III trial demonstrate that the drug, also known as LBH589, significantly extended PFS in patients with relapsed or relapsed and refractory MM in combination with Johnson & Johnson's Velcade (bortezomib) and dexamethasone, compared with the latter two drugs alone. Full results from the study will be presented at an upcoming medical congress and discussed with regulatory authorities worldwide, Novartis noted.

Panobinostat is an oral pan-inhibitor of class I, II, and IV histone and non-histone deacetylase enzymes (HDACs/DACs). It works by blocking a set of key enzymes which ultimately leads to cellular stress and death of these cells.

Alessandro Riva, head of medical affairs of Novartis Oncology, noted that the results show improved outcomes for patients "who otherwise have few options to treat this incurable disease". He added that  "given its mechanism of action, LBH589 has the potential to be an important treatment option for MM". Panobinostat is also being explored in additional haematologic malignancies, including Hodgkin's lymphoma.

MM affects one-five in every 100,000 people worldwide each year and the five year survival-rate for patients with the disease is about 44%.