THOUSAND OAKS, Calif., July 1, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) today announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Breakthrough Therapy Designation to investigational bispecific T cell engager (BiTE ®) antibody blinatumomab, for adults with Philadelphia-negative (Ph-) relapsed/refractory B-precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rapidly progressing cancer of the blood and bone marrow 1. The Breakthrough Therapy Designation was based on the results of a Phase 2 trial of 189 adult patients with Ph- relapsed/refractory B-precursor ALL treated with blinatumomab. Data from the Phase 2 trial were most recently presented at the 50 th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the 19 th Congress of the European Hematology Association (EHA). "There is a high unmet need for new medicines to treat relapsed and refractory ALL patients, who have very few treatment options," said Sean E. Harper, M.D., executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen. "The results from the Phase 2 trial evaluating blinatumomab in adult patients with relapsed or refractory ALL are encouraging and provide a strong basis for a regulatory filing later this year and potential approval in this serious disease." The FDA states that Breakthrough Therapy Designation is intended to expedite the development and review of drugs for serious or life-threatening conditions. The criteria for Breakthrough Therapy Designation require preliminary clinical evidence that demonstrates the drug may have substantial improvement on at least one clinically significant endpoint over available therapy. A Breakthrough Therapy Designation conveys all of the fast-track program features, more intensive FDA guidance on an efficient drug development program, an organizational commitment involving senior managers, and eligibility for rolling review and priority review 2. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated that over 6,000 cases of ALL were diagnosed in 2013, and in the European Union, more than 7,000 cases of ALL are diagnosed each year 3,4. In adult patients with relapsed or refractory ALL, median overall survival is just three to five months 5. About BiTE® Technology Bispecific T cell engager (BiTE ®) antibodies are a type of immunotherapy being investigated for use in fighting cancer by helping to engage the body's immune system to detect and target malignant cells. The modified antibodies are designed to engage two different targets simultaneously, thereby juxtaposing T cells (a type of white blood cell capable of killing other cells perceived as threats) to cancer cells. BiTE antibodies help place the T cells within reach of the targeted cell, with the intent of allowing it to inject toxins and trigger the cell to die (apoptosis). BiTE antibodies are currently being investigated for their potential to treat a wide variety of cancers. For more information on BiTE antibodies, visit www.biteantibodies.com. About Blinatumomab Blinatumomab is an investigational BiTE ® antibody designed to direct the body's cell-destroying T cells against target cells expressing CD19, a protein found on the surface of B-cell derived leukemias and lymphomas. Blinatumomab is the first of the BiTE antibodies and Amgen has received orphan drug designation from the FDA for the treatment of ALL, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), hairy cell leukemia, prolymphocytic leukemia and indolent B cell lymphoma and from the European Medicines Agency for the treatment of indolent B cell lymphoma, ALL, CLL and mantle cell leukemia (MCL). Blinatumomab is also being investigated for its potential to treat pediatric relapsed/refractory ALL, relapsed/refractory Philadelphia positive (Ph+) B-precursor ALL, minimal residual disease positive (MRD+) B-precursor ALL, relapsed/refractory non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL), including relapsed/refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). About ALL Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is an aggressive cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made 1. The disease progresses rapidly and affects immature blood cells, rather than mature ones 1. Worldwide, ALL accounts for more than 12 percent of leukemia. Of the 42,000 people diagnosed worldwide, 31,000 will die from the disease. Patients with ALL have abnormal white blood cells (lymphocytes) that crowd out healthy white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets, leading to infection, anemia (fatigue), easy bleeding and serious side effects 6. About Amgen Amgen is committed to unlocking the potential of biology for patients suffering from serious illnesses by discovering, developing, manufacturing and delivering innovative human therapeutics. This approach begins by using tools like advanced human genetics to unravel the complexities of disease and understand the fundamentals of human biology.