Study of Treanda shows great promise for Teva's drug

Boosted by an intriguing backstory tied to the Cold War, a study showing Teva Pharmaceutical's ($TEVA) Treanda worked better on patients with non-Hodgkin lymphomas and produced fewer side effects, is getting lots of attention at ASCO.

The drug, developed in the former East Germany and now produced by Israel-based Teva, doubled progression-free survival when given along with Roche's ($RHHBY) Rituxan. That is compared with the usual treatment of giving the so-called R-CHOP cocktail of Rituxan Cytoxan, Adriamycin, vincristine and prednisone, reports HealthDay News. The study was released at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago.

"Simultaneously increasing efficacy and decreasing toxicity is a rare win-win in oncology, and this has already prompted an enormous shift in the way we care for these patients," Dr. Joshua Brody, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City told HealthDay News. "The story of bendamustine is particularly interesting in that, after its initial development in East Germany in the 1960s, it was cast aside for decades until finally being 'rediscovered' over the past 10 years," Brody said.

The author of the study, Dr. Mathias Rummel, of University Hospital Geissen in Germany, told HealthDay News it wasn't until the Iron Curtain dissolved in 1989 that West German doctors learned of the drug. Even then, there was suspicion about anything developed in the communist country.

This is not the first time the improved results have garnered some attention. Rummel released data from the study in 2009 at the American Society of Hematology meeting.

Teva picked the drug up in its $6.8 billion acquisition of Cephalon last year. The FDA approved it in 2008, first for for treating patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and 7 months later as secondary therapy for patients with the slow-growing form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Bloomberg reports. The drug had sales last year of $131 million and Teva has projected sales next year of $670 million.

- read the HealthDay News story
- here's Bloomberg's take