CellPro Inc. and Amgen Inc. plan to co-sponsor a series ofPhase III human clinical trials of a cancer treatment thatcombines Amgen's Neupogen drug and CellPro's stem celltechnology, CellPro announced Tuesday.

The two companies plan a multicenter trial involving patientsundergoing autologous bone marrow transplantation. The trialswill use Neupogen, a recombinant human granulocyte colonystimulating factor (G-CSF), and CellPro's Ceprate SC stem cellconcentration system. The body's stem cells generate the entireset of blood cells.

CellPro alone completed a Phase I/II trial involving 28 patientswith breast cancer or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma last December,said Lee Parker, director of investor relations for the Bothell,Wash., company. In that study, Ceprate SC was used inconjunction with both Amgen's Neupogen and a similar drug,Leukine, made by Immunex Corp.

"Neupogen worked faster," Parker said. Neupogen, whichstimulates the production of white blood cells, was grantedmarketing approval in February 1991 as an adjunct tochemotherapy to help prevent infection.

Ceprate SC is used to select stem cells from bone marrow. Thesecells are then purified and infused back into the patient toreconstitute the patient's blood and immune systems, whichhave been damaged by chemotherapy.

No financial terms of the agreement were disclosed. CellPro'sstock (NASDAQ:CPRO) closed Tuesday at $11 a share, up $1.Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) was down 50 cents a share to close at$62.75.

For CellPro, the collaboration is "significant because Amgen isexcited enough about our research to co-sponsor the trials,"Parker said.

For Amgen, "the agreement is important in the sense that wecan expand the way Neupogen can be used," said KimberlyDorsey, associate manager of communications for the ThousandOaks, Calif.-based company. Amgen may later apply to the FDAto expand Neupogen's approval to include bone marrowtransplants.

CellPro sees a potential patient population for the combinedNeupogen-Ceprate SC procedure that includes about 15,000people undergoing bone marrow transplants annually in theU.S. and Europe; 500,000 U.S. cancer patients receivingchemotherapy, plus an equal number in Europe and another200,000 in Japan.

-- Steve Payne BioWorld Staff

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