• Auxilium Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Malvern, Pa., presented Phase III data demonstrating that its lead drug candidate, AA4500, reduced joint contracture in both the double-blind and open-label phases of the trial. In the blinded portion of the study, as previously reported, AA4500 injection resulted in a 91 percent success rate in reducing joint contracture to within 5 degrees of normal in patients with Dupuytren's contracture, while no patients in the placebo arm achieved success. In the open-label phase, AA4500 injection into additional joints produced a full correction in 88 percent of Metacarpophalangeal joints and 68 percent of Proximal Interphalangeal joints. The data were presented at the 74th annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in San Diego. Additional Phase III trials are ongoing but were halted in December due to manufacturing issues.

• Basilea Pharmaceutica Ltd., of Basel, Switzerland, announced positive results from a Phase III trial of alitretinoin in severe and refractory chronic hand dermatitis. In the study, 1,032 patients were randomized to receive 30 mg or 10 mg of alitretinoin or placebo for up to 24 weeks. Of those receiving 30 mg, 48 percent achieved the primary endpoint of clear or almost clear skin, compared to 28 percent in the 10 mg group and 17 percent in the placebo group. There are currently no approved treatments for the condition, and Basilea plans to submit applications for approval later this year. The company has two other Phase III products in development: the antibiotic ceftobiprole, which generated positive Phase III data last month in complicated skin infections, and isavuconazole for invasive candida and aspergillus infections.

• Novacea Inc., of South San Francisco, said findings from its Phase II ASCENT (AIPC Study of Calcitriol Enhancing Taxotere) trial of DN-101 (Asentar) in androgen-independent prostate cancer show that DN-101 might help advanced prostate cancer patients live longer while experiencing fewer chemotherapy-associated side effects and complications. DN-101 is an oral, intermittent, high-dose of calcitriol that is designed to activate the vitamin D receptor. Those results were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

• Pharmacopeia Drug Discovery Inc., of Princeton, N.J., said its partner Schering-Plough Corp., of Kenilworth, N.J., initiated a Phase I trial with PS522501, a compound in development for metabolic diseases. Under their collaboration, Schering-Plough is responsible for further development and commercialization, while Pharmacopeia is eligible to receive milestone payments if the program advances into late-stage clinical trials, plus royalties on sales of any resulting products. PS522501 is the third program from the collaboration.