Novartis and Incyte's JAK 1 and 2 inhibitor Jakavi, which is already approved for myelofibrosis, has impressed in a late-stage trial for another blood cancer.

The Swiss major says that in a Phase III trial, Jakavi (ruxolitinib) met its primary endpoint in patients with polycythemia vera, a chronic, incurable blood cancer associated with an overproduction of blood cells. Specifically, compared to best available therapy, the drug maintained red blood cell volume without the need for phlebotomy and reducing spleen size in patients who cannot take the chemotherapy hydroxyurea.  

Novartis oncology chief Alessandro Riva said the firm plans to submit these data to worldwide regulatory agencies this year. An approval for a disease where there are no treatments currently available will add to Jakavi's already-healthy sales (Novartis licensed the drug from Incyte for non-US markets) and it is expected to become a blockbuster; it is also in trials for pancreatic cancer.

In terms of competition in the myelofibrosis market, one potential rival disappeared last year when Sanofi gave up on the JAK2 inhibitor fedratinib following reports of a rare brain disorder, while Gilead Sciences' JAK1 and 2 inhibitor CYT387 is not yet in Phase III.