Cancer drug developer Introgen Therapeutics Inc. raised $20 million through a common stock sale that closed just before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Wednesday afternoon, the Austin, Texas-based company sold 2.86 million shares at $7 apiece. The per-share price reflected a slight discount to the $7.54 value at which the stock closed a day earlier. On Monday, its shares (NASDAQ:INGN) gained 3 cents to close at $7.05.

The gross proceeds nearly doubled Introgen's last reported cash reserves, which stood at $22.6 million through the three-month period ended Sept. 30. The company lost $4.4 million during the quarter, which it ended with about 23.7 million shares outstanding.

The sale marked the second such offering for Introgen in the past six months. Earlier this summer, it raised $11.5 million through a private placement of 2 million shares. (See BioWorld Today, June 19, 2003.)

New York-based SG Cowen Securities Corp. was the latest financing's managing placement agent. The shares were sold about three months after Introgen filed a $100 million common stock shelf registration with the SEC.

The company, whose officials did not return calls seeking comment, said the additional funding pads its balance sheet as it continues late-stage development of its lead products, Advexin and INGN 241. The former remains in two Phase III studies in head and neck cancer, for which it received FDA fast-track status for its effect on prolonging survival and the time to loco-regional disease progression in patients with recurrent squamous-cell carcinoma of the head and neck, while the latter is in Phase II development for various solid tumors.

Advexin's two latest-stage studies include one in which the gene therapy is being compared to methotrexate, while the other combines it with cisplatin and 5-fluorouracil to evaluate if it is better than the chemotherapies alone.

The p53-based cancer agent also is being studied in various other trials. Introgen recently entered an agreement with the Southwest Oncology Group in San Antonio to conduct a Phase II study to target Stage III or IV squamous-cell carcinoma of the oral cavity and oropharynx that is able to be surgically removed. Also, an oral rinse formulation of Advexin recently entered a Phase I/II study for oral cancer premalignancies. That study is being conducted in collaboration with the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, a unit of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md.

The company also remains positive in further developing INGN 241. Recently published preclinical data that appeared in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery showed that the mda-7 therapy causes lung cancer cells to undergo cell death. The study, conducted with collaborators at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, showed that INGN 241 caused apoptosis in tumor cells containing either normal or a mutated p53 gene. When compared to Advexin, the researchers discovered that the different tumor suppressor genes use different pathways to induce cell death. When compared to other vectors containing the bax or bak genes, INGN 241 had an advantage in that it did not kill normal cells.

Other published preclinical data have pointed to its utility in treating prostate, ovarian and lung cancers.