Avax Technologies Inc., of Kansas City, Mo., presented data that supported and expanded previously released Phase II information, which suggested M-VAX increases the overall survival rate in melanoma patients with large, surgically resectable metastases to two lymph nodal site, or Stage III melanoma.

M-VAX is made from the patient¿s own cancer cells, which are modified with a ¿hapten¿ molecule. The process makes the tumor cells appear foreign to the patient¿s immune system, which then recognizes the cancer cells and destroys them.

Data from the Phase II study were presented at the 90th annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) in Philadelphia. The conference continues today.

In other news from the AACR conference:

¿ ImClone Systems Inc., of New York, reported positive preclinical data on its anti-angiogenesis monoclonal antibody, which targets a receptor of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), known as FLK-1 in mice and KDR in humans. In vivo findings showed the administration of the anti-VEGFR-2 antibody resulted in a reduction of new blood vessel formation in tumors by as much as 80 percent and a decrease of existing blood vessel structures. In addition, it significantly reduced or stopped the growth of established tumors.

¿ Vion Pharmaceuticals Inc., of New Haven, Conn., and its Yale University collaborators will enter human clinical testing with their lead TAPET vector, VNP20009. Vion is developing TAPET organisms as vectors for the targeted, systemic delivery of anticancer agents to tumors throughout the body. At the conference, Vion presented data on the genetically engineered Salmonella bacteria¿s overall safety profile and tumor-targeting ability, including TAPET¿s safety when administered to non-human primates.

¿ OXiGENE Inc., of Boston, reported that Combretastatin A-4 Prodrug (CA4p), its anti-tumor vascular targeting agent, significantly reduced blood flow in tumors in preclinical studies. In addition, the dose of radiation required to induce local tumor control decreased. OXiGENE is conducting two Phase I trials of CA4p.

¿ Maxim Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, presented Phase II data on its lead drug, Maxamine, that showed expanded evidence of its protective and enhancing effect on lymphocytes. Maxamine synergizes with cytokines, such as interleukin-2 and interferon-alpha, to protect and activate each of these subsets of T cells and natural killer cells.

¿ BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Antonio, Texas, reported that BNP7787, a novel chemoprotecting agent designed to increase the therapeutic index and protect against the common toxicities of widely used anticancer drugs, has the ability to protect against drug-induced nerve damage. Also, it does not reduce the antitumor effects of cytotoxic drugs in human cancer cells lines and in implanted human cancers in animals. In addition, BioNumerik reported that karentecin, its silicon-containing anticancer compound, demonstrated potent antitumor activity at low concentrations in human cancer cell lines and in animals bearing human tumors.

¿ Cell Pathways Inc., of Horsham, Pa., reported that selective apoptotic anti-neoplastic drugs (SAANDs) are a new class of compounds that show potential for the prevention and treatment of cancer. In two studies, the company showed that these compounds selectively induce apoptosis in abnormal cells and inhibit the formation of premalignant lesions in preclinical models.

¿ MGI Pharma Inc., of Minnetonka, Minn., released study results showing that MGI 114, a cancer-fighting compound, has a unique mechanism of action that may be a factor in its ability to inhibit the growth of human cancer cells. MGI, derived from a mushroom, is in Phase II trials. Studies showed that tumor cells die as a result of MGI 114 binding to DNA and/or protein targets within the cell that initiate apoptosis, leading to tumor shrinkage or elimination.

¿ Immunomedics Inc., of Morris Plains, N.J., reported that a new toxin, ribonuclease (Rnase), was genetically cloned and has been shown to be as effective in inhibiting protein synthesis as the original Rnase made from frog eggs. In addition, the company reported on a new rapid method to attach the potent therapeutic isotope yttrium-90 to anticancer antibodies.