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Pharmacyclics rises on blood cancer drug data

NEW YORK (AP) -- Pharmacyclics jumped Monday after the company reported promising clinical trial data for an experimental lymphoma drug.

In December Pharmacyclics formed a partnership with Johnson & Johnson to help develop and sell ibrutinib as a treatment for blood cancers like non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The drug is in mid-stage clinical testing and the companies hope to begin late-stage trials in 2012.

On Monday Pharmacyclics reported additional data from early studies of the drug. In one study, 21 out of 26 percent of patients who were treated ibrutinib had their tumors shrink, and three of those patients did not have any detectable cancer following treatment. On average, it said those patients survived for 14.4 months before death or their disease progression resumed.

In a study of 27 patients, it said 100 percent of patients responded to the drug and time to death or disease progression was 9.8 months. In a third trial that enrolled 30 patients, it said 28 responded to ibrutinib and four had undetectable cancer levels.

The studies tested ibrutinib in combination with various other drugs. Some of those patients had previously been treated with other drugs, others had received no previous treatment.

Ibrutinib is the Sunnyvale, Calif., company's most advanced drug candidate. Johnson & Johnson agreed to pay Pharmacyclics $150 million at the beginning of their partnership, and Pharmacyclics said it could get $975 million in payments if the drug advances through regulatory development and is approved. The companies will share profits on sales of the drug.

Shares of Pharmacyclics Inc. rose $1.61, or 5.3 percent, to $32.07 in afternoon trading. Johnson & Johnson stock picked up 47 cents to $62.25.