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Incyte buys rights to test blood cancer drug for new disease




With some patients who receive a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia or other types of blood cancers, a rare condition called graft-versus-host disease might develop. That’s when the donor cells attack healthy organs in the host’s body.

Right now, there is no approved treatment for graft-versus-host disease, but a Delaware biotech company is looking to change that.


Delaware Public Media's Eli Chen reports on the latest development on Incyte's blood cancer drug, Jakafi.


The Wilmington-based Incyte Corporation has bought the rights to develop and commercialize its premier blood cancer drug for graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).

Incyte also renegotiated contracts with Eli Lilly and Novartis conduct research on it for GVHD outside the U.S. The company paid Lilly $35 million upfront.

This will allow the company to prepare ruxolitinib, which goes by the brand name Jakafi, for phase 3 clinical trials, which will take place later this year.

Jakafi is currently the only FDA-approved drug to treat two types of rare blood diseases, myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera. Patients with these conditions may receive a stem cell or bone marrow transplant. But in rare cases, they risk getting graft-versus-host disease.

Steroids are typically used to treat it, but the drug doesn’t agree with all patients. Reid Huber is the Chief Scientific Officer at Incyte.

“This is a high unmet need and these patients have often dismal outcomes, shortened survival and incredibly complicated clinical courses," said Huber, “so to have any treatment available that can address the important unmet need there would be a significant advance there for medicine and for transplant and bone marrow cancers.”

Incyte reported $7 million in profits during fiscal year 2015, largely due to strong sales of Jakafi.

The company had also hoped to test the blood cancer drug on solid tumors, like breast, lung and pancreatic cancers. But phase 3 clinical trials to do so were canceled earlier this year, due to a lack of positive outcomes.


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