Fifty percent of patients with severe rheumatoid arthritisexperienced significant reductions in swollen and tender jointswhen given mid to high doses of Seragen Inc.'s interleukin-2fusion toxin, the company reported.

The patients with severe, progressive rheumatoid arthritis hadnot responded adequately to available therapies. According tothe Phase I/II data presented at the recent TPI Conference onMonoclonal Antibodies in London, nine of the 18 patients whoreceived the mid or high dose had a major response, defined assignificant reductions in both symptoms.

Seragen has begun a double-blind, placebo-controlled Phase IItrial of the drug, which combines diphtheria toxin fragmentsgenetically fused to IL-2.

Researchers also presented data from a pilot study of eightpatients with recent onset of type I diabetes. Five experienceda remission after receiving the fusion toxin and weremaintained in remission on low doses of animmunosuppressive drug, cyclosporine A. Two remain inremission after one year. Phase I/II trials are ongoing in Parisunder a U.S. investigational new drug application.

The drug targets T lymphocytes expressing the IL-2 receptor,which are responsible for the autoimmune responses associatedwith both rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.

The Hopkinton, Mass., company (NASDAQ:SRGN) hopes to beginPhase I/II trials late this year of an improved version of thefusion toxin, probably in a cancer indication. -- KB

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