SEATTLE -- Immunex Corp. announced Monday that a secondof its cytokine receptor products, soluble tumor necrosis factor(TNF) receptor, entered clinical trials. It's being tested first as acandidate in the hotly competitive field of anti-sepsistherapeutics.

Sepsis, a systemic inflammatory response triggered by thebody's release of immune system proteins, has attracted atleast four other drug developers, including Centocor Inc. andXoma Corp., both of which have products in clinical studies forseptic shock. Ribi Immunochem Research Inc. and Cortech Inc.have products in pre-clinical development.

Immunex is hoping to achieve with its cytokine receptors abroad response to systemic inflammation, said spokeswomanMary McConnon. About 500,000 cases of sepsis are diagnosedeach year in the United States, with about half of thoseprogressing to septic shock, which can cause organ failure ordeath.

Immunex aims with TNF receptor "to follow rather quicklywith a placebo-controlled trial," McConnon said. Results fromthe initial Phase I trial, which is being conducted by theNational Institutes of Health clinical center in Bethesda, Md.,should be reported toward the end the year.

TNF receptor joins in clinical trials Immunex's interleukin-1receptor, which the company also plans to test against sepsis.IL-1 receptor first entered clinicals nine months ago fortreating skin allergies, and has since entered additional trialsfor treating graft vs. host disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Inpreclinical studies using animal models, the IL-1 and TNFreceptors showed an additional benefit when used incombination for treating arthritis.

Immunex believes that soluble receptors may be able to turnoff specific immune responses in a broad array of autoimmuneand inflammatory disease by preventing immune systemproteins, or cytokines, from binding to cell-surface receptorsand signaling a reaction. "We plan to pursue receptor productsin a wide range of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions,"said Steven Gillis, Immunex's executive vice president.

The next clinical target for TNF receptor is likely to be intreating cachexia, a wasting effect that afflicts about half of allcancer patients, McConnon said.

Both TNF and IL-1 receptors are being developed by ReceptechInc., a research and development captive spin-off thatImmunex launched with an initial public offering in late 1989.

Immunex has an option to reacquire all Receptech stock or tolicense individual products. Buying all Receptech stock wouldcost Immunex $58.5 million through next Jan. 31, after whichthe price under the option rises to $83.3 million. Receptech alsoincludes rights to IL-4 receptor, IL-7 receptor, and Pixy 321, aproposed treatment for the side effects of cancer therapy thatis now in clinical trials.

-- Ray Potter Senior Editor

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