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Geron surges on data for myelofibrosis drug

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of drug developer Geron nearly doubled in value Thursday morning after the company reported strong clinical trial data for its blood disorder drug imetelstat.

Geron is studying imetelstat as a treatment for myelofibrosis, a disease in which abnormal blood cells to build up in bone marrow, forming thick scar tissue that slows the production of healthy blood cells. The company said some patients treated with the drug went into remission or had a reversal of bone marrow fibrosis. Other myelofibrosis drugs treat the symptoms of the disease, included swelling of the spleen.

Shares of Geron climbed $2.57, or 71.4 percent, to $6.17 in extremely heavy morning trading. Earlier it rose to $7.79, more than double its Wednesday closing price and its greatest value since August 2009. Trading volume topped 28 million shares, versus normal daily trade of about 2.5 million.

Meanwhile shares of Incyte Corp., which makes the myelofibrosis drug Jakafi, lost $1.15, or 3 percent, to $36.35. Jakafi is approved to treat swelling of the spleen caused by myelofibrosis. The Food and Drug Administration approved Jakafi in November 2011 and European Union regulators followed suit in August 2012.

Geron released the data in advance of a meeting of the American Society of Hematology next month. It comes from 18 patients in a trial that hasn't yet been completed. The company said eight of the 18 patients responded to treatment.

The Menlo Park, Calif., company is studying imetelstat as a treatment for blood disorders like myelofibrosis and essential thrombocytopenia, which is caused by bone marrow disease. Patients have elevated levels of blood platelets, increasing the risk of blood clots and other problems.

Geron pioneered the development of embryonic stem cell therapies and ran the first human trials of treatments based on embryonic stem cells. However it stopped its stem cell programs last year, citing costs, manufacturing and regulatory complexities, and it sold its stem cell assets in October.

Geron Corp. will also report its third-quarter results after the market closes Thursday.