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Johnson & Johnson (JNJ - Analyst Report) presented encouraging data from a phase III study on its oncology drug, Velcade, at the annual meeting of the European Hematology Association.

Data from the randomized, open-label, active-controlled, multicoated, international prospective phase III LYM-3002 study evaluated the use of Velcade-based regimen, VR-CAP (Velcade in combination with rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, and prednisone) versus the current standard therapy, R-CHOP (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, and prednisone). The study enrolled mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) patients who were newly diagnosed and unsuitable, or not considered, for a stem-cell transplant. As per investigator assessment, it was found that the use of Velcade resulted in a significant increase (96%) in progression-free survival (PFS) versus standard of care. An independent review committee also found a significant (56%) increase in PFS in the VR-CAP arm as compared to R-CHOP.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson also announced data from a sub-analysis of the pivotal MMY-3021 study evaluating the use of Velcade SC (subcutaneous) in patients suffering from multiple myeloma (MM) with moderate-to-severe renal impairment versus Velcade IV (intravenous). An impressive overall response rate was observed in the Velcade SC arm (53%) as compared to the Velcade IV arm (31%).

We note that Velcade is already approved for MM. Additionally, Velcade is also available for the treatment of patients with MCL who have received at least one prior therapy in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson has the commercialization rights of Velcade in Europe and other ex-U.S. markets, while Takeda Pharmaceutical (TKPYY) has the right to the drug in the U.S.

Johnson & Johnson carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the healthcare sector include Gilead Sciences Inc. (GILD - Analyst Report) and Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (ALXN - Analyst Report). While Gilead is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, Alexion holds a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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