Argus Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced that it has begun PhaseI clinical trials of its anti-cancer compound AR-623 for treatingleukemia.

The trials on AR-623, a lipid-based formulation of tretinoin (alltrans retinoic acid), are designed to determine safety andpharmacology and will be conducted at the University of TexasM.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

Argus is expecting to ultimately enroll from 20 to 25 patientsin the Phase I trials, said Kenneth Cohen, the company's vicepresident of business affairs.

FDA approved Argus' investigational new drug (IND)application in mid-January.

Argus of Houston has designed its lipid-formulated drug -- onwhich it received orphan drug designation in January -- to bedelivered to sites where leukemia cells are formed, and oncethere, to induce those cells to develop normally. The companyalso hopes that its drug will exhibit reduced toxicity overcurrent oral formulations.

"We hope to show in clinical trials that our intravenousformulation of this orally active drug can have importantadvantages in cancer therapy," said David Leech, president andchief executive officer of Argus.

Argus (NASDAQ:ARGS) raised $10.8 million in its initial publicoffering in July 1992. The company filed for a follow-onoffering of 2.5 million shares in January, but postponed that onMarch 15 "due to current market conditions." At that time,president Leech told BioWorld that his company had just under$9 million in cash and about 6.9 million shares outstanding.

Argus' stock closed unchanged Wednesday at $6 a share. --Jennifer Van Brunt

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