* Increases progression-free survival in metastatic melanoma

* No details given of magnitude of benefit

* Data seen as positive, but market is competitive

* Shares rise as much as 2.7 pct (Adds background, share price, analyst comment)

By Toni Clarke

Oct 2 (Reuters) - Celgene Corp said on Tuesday that patients with metastatic melanoma who took its drug Abraxane in a late-stage clinical trial lived for a longer period without getting worse than those who received the chemotherapy dacarbazine.

Abraxane is currently approved to treat patients with metastatic breast cancer who have failed to respond to other treatments. Celgene is hoping to win approval to market it for other types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer and melanoma, which, left untreated, is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Celgene is expected to release details of the magnitude of the benefit seen in the latest trial at a medical conference next month, but investment analysts said the drug will probably need to show that it lengthens life in a meaningful way if it is to be competitive.

If approved, Abraxane would compete with products such as Bristol-Myers Squibb's Yervoy, known also as ipilimumab, and Roche Holding AG's Zelboraf, or vemurafenib.

"We view today's news as an upside surprise, given very low expectations for Abraxane in this indication," Geoff Meacham, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, said in a research note.

Celgene's shares were up 2.4 percent to $78.60 in mid-morning trading on Nasdaq after rising as high as $78.83 at the open.

About 132,000 new cases of melanoma are diagnosed each year globally, the company said, citing data from the World Health Organization.

Celgene acquired Abraxane when it bought Abraxis BioScience in 2010 for $2.9 billion. The drug combines the cancer chemotherapy paclitaxel with a protein called albumin which Celgene believes helps deliver a greater amount of chemotherapy to cancer cells with fewer side effects.

Paclitaxel is one of a class of chemotherapies known as taxanes that have shown little efficacy by themselves in melanoma. The question is whether the apparent benefit seen with Abraxane in melanoma will also be seen in a late-stage pancreatic cancer trial whose results are expected later this year.

Celgene also expects to hear by Oct. 12 whether the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will approve Abraxane in non-small cell lung cancer. A successful expansion of the drug's use into lung and other cancers would help justify what some investors considered an excessively high price paid by Celgene for Abraxis.

"We view today's news as incrementally positive," said Brian Abrahams, an analyst at Wells Fargo, "though more data will be needed to fully assess the opportunity." (Reporting by Toni Clarke in Boston; Additional reporting by Balaji Sridharan in Bangalore; Editing by Sreejiraj Eluvangal, Maureen Bavdek and Tim Dobbyn)

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Ewan McGregor

    A few years back, the star had a cancerous mole removed from under his eye, <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7360233.stm" target="_hplink">telling the BBC</a> that he knew his fair skin -- and years spent enjoying the sun -- upped his risk. "I went to see a specialist who thought they were better to be removed, and indeed he was correct,"<a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/7360233.stm" target="_hplink"> McGregor told the BBC.</a>

  • Michelle Monaghan

    <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20532015_2,00.html" target="_hplink">The actress told <em>Health</em> magazine</a> that her Aussie husband was instrumental in keeping her skin cancer from progressing. "A few years ago I had a mole on the back of my calf, and he was adamant that I get it checked," <a href="http://www.health.com/health/article/0,,20532015_2,00.html" target="_hplink">she told the publication.</a> "In Australia, they're very aware of skin cancer. I finally went and it was skin cancer."

  • William H. Macy

    After appearing on her show with a small bandage on his nose, the actor told "Live! with Kelly" host Kelly Ripa he'd recently had a basal-cell carcinoma removed <a href="http://blog.sfgate.com/dailydish/2012/01/03/william-h-macy-recovering-from-skin-cancer-surgery/" target="_hplink"> (via SFGate)</a>. "I'm Scots/Irish heritage and (that's what I get) for spending a misspent youth in Georgia with no sunscreen," Macy said.

  • Melanie Griffith

    The actress once underwent surgery to remove "the early stages of skin cancer from her face," <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-12-18/entertainment/melanie.griffith.cancer_1_melanie-griffith-skin-cancer-surgery?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">CNN reported. </a> According to <a href="http://articles.cnn.com/2009-12-18/entertainment/melanie.griffith.cancer_1_melanie-griffith-skin-cancer-surgery?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ" target="_hplink">CNN,</a> Griffith's spokesperson explained that the surgery was done early enough to prevent any future complications.

  • John McCain

    The politician has had at least four melanomas, <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2008/may/24/science/sci-melanoma24" target="_hplink">the <em>Los Angeles Times</em> reports.</a> "Melanoma can almost always be cured in its early stages. But it is likely to spread to other parts of the body if it is not caught early," <a href="http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/SkinCancer-Melanoma/OverviewGuide/melanoma-skin-cancer-overview-what-is-melanoma" target="_hplink">The American Cancer Society explains.</a> "Melanoma is much less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers ... but it is far more dangerous."

  • Brooke Shields

    Though the actress is skin-cancer free, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20280761,00.html" target="_hplink">she told <em>People</em> magazine</a> that her doctor once removed a precancerous mole from her face, which served as a real wake-up call. "All my girlfriends and I would go up on the roof in New York; we didn't have to be at the beach," <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20280761,00.html" target="_hplink">Shields told<em> People</em>,</a> explaining that she stopped tanning years ago. "You think that because you're not in the sun anymore, it's all in the past. And then something like that crops up and you're made aware of how dangerous it really can be."

  • Laura Bush

    The former First Lady had a tumor removed from her shin several years ago, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2006/12/18/wh-laura-bush-had-skin-ca_n_36672.html" target="_hplink">the AP reported.</a> It was a squamous cell carcinoma -- a non-melanoma skin cancer -- the main symptom of which is a "growing bump that may have a rough, scaly surface and flat reddish patches," <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001832/" target="_hplink">the NIH explains.</a>

  • Troy Aikman

    The former NFL quarterback was told he had 100 percent chance of survival after a malignant melanoma was removed from his shoulder back in the late 1990s,<a href="http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1013047/index.htm" target="_hplink"> according to <em>Sports Illustrated.</em> </a>

  • Anderson Cooper

    The star reporter had minor surgery to remove a cancerous mole from his face, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/03/19/anderson-cooper-has-surge_n_92338.html" target="_hplink">the AP reported.</a> <a href="http://www.accesshollywood.com/anderson-cooper-has-small-spot-of-skin-cancer-removed_article_8823" target="_hplink">As Access Hollywood explained,</a> he mentioned the procedure on his blog explaining that he had "a small spot of skin cancer removed from under my left eye."

  • Lisa Gastineau

    The former reality TV star (who may be returning to it again soon) had a basal cell carcinoma inside her nose removed, which required doctors to remove part of her nostril, <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20348105,00.html" target="_hplink">according to <em>People.</em></a> She's also had melanoma removed from her thigh, and now is very careful to avoid the sun.