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Novartis Presents Data on Tafinlar-Mekinist Combination

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Novartis AG NVS announced results from a phase II study, BRF113220, on the combination of Tafinlar and Mekinist at the 53rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

The results from the study showed a durable survival benefit for some patients with BRAF V600 mutation-positive metastatic melanoma (MM) when treated with the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist. The study enrolled 162 patients who received either Tafinlar monotherapy (150 mg BID) (n = 54) or the Tafinlar + Mekinist combination (150 mg BID/2 mg QD) (n = 54). 20 patients (37%) were evaluated in the study after five years.

Among these, seven (13%) remained in the Tafinlar monotherapy arm and 13 (24%) in the combination therapy arm, demonstrating that overall survival (OS) with combination therapy is superior to monotherapy.

The company plans to evaluate additional phase III long-term survival data.

In addition, Novartis presented results from a phase II study, COMBI-MB, which showed a positive, statistically significant intracranial response for patients with BRAF V600 mutation-positive MM when treated with the combination of Tafinlar + Mekinist.

We remind investors that the combination of Tafinlar and Mekinist is already approved in the U.S. and EU for the treatment of patients with unresectable or MM who have a BRAF V600 mutation. Both Tafinlar and Mekinist are also approved individually as single agents for the treatment of patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma.

Novartis broadened its oncology portfolio by acquiring GlaxoSmithKline plc’s GSK certain oncology products and pipeline compounds in Mar 2015 after having divested its Animal Health Division to Eli Lilly and Co. LLY. Both Tafinlar and Mekinist were acquired from Glaxo.

Novartis’ has outperformed the Zacks classified industry year to date. The stock has rallied 18.5% compared with the Large Cap Pharmaceuticals industry’s gain of 14.3%.

Going forward, we expect that the approval of new drugs and label expansion of existing ones will bode well for Novartis. Also, strong performance of growth products should be able to offset the impact of generic competition for Gleevec.

Zacks Rank

Novartis currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

A better-ranked stock in healthcare sector include VIVUS, Inc. VVUS which sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

VIVUS’s loss per share estimates lessened from 50 cents to 39 cents for 2017 in the last 30 days. The company posted positive earnings surprises in all four trailing quarters with average beat of 233.69%.

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