ImmunoGen Inc. said Tuesday it has "evidence of efficacy"from an initial safety study of a potential drug for small-celllung cancer.

The Cambridge, Mass., company (NASDAQ:IMGN), treated 21patients with relapsed and refractory small-cell lung cancer, aparticularly invidious malignancy, using its second product,Oncolysin S.

Oncolysin S combines a tumor-targeting monoclonal antibodywith the toxin blocked ricin, a proprietary derivative of thepowerful plant poison, to destroy cancer cells. The five-yearsurvival rate for this type of cancer is from 2 percent to 5percent.

Since any sign of progress in patients who are terminally illwith small-cell lung cancer is unexpected, encouraging resultsfrom the Phase I safety study were notable, said companyspokesman Mark Ratner.

"We have established a highly satisfactory safety profile forOncolysin S," added Carol Epstein, ImmunoGen's vice presidentand chief medical officer. The drug was well-tolerated andshowed biological activity. She called evidence of efficacy"remarkable in relapsed patients with small-cell lung cancer."

Data will be presented at the American Society of ClinicalOncology meeting, to be held May 16-18 in Orlando, Fla.

ImmunoGen will next undertake a Phase I/II clinical trial inpatients who are in remission following conventionalchemotherapy to extend this period of disease-free survival.Although small-cell lung cancer is very sensitive initially tochemotherapy, Ratner said, relapse is common. Untreated, thedisease kills half of patients with extensive malignancy withinsix to 17 weeks.

Using the so-called immunoconjugate therapy in patients whohave some cancer cells remaining after chemotherapy can fill amajor therapeutic void, said Donald McCarren, ImmunoGen'spresident and chief operating officer.

The company's first adjunct therapy, Oncolysin B, is slated for aPhase III trial in B-cell lymphoma patients who are in clinicalremission following bone marrow transplantation. The trial willcompare time to relapse with patients who do not receive thedrug.

ImmunoGen's stock rose $1 a share on Tuesday, to $7.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.

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