A multicenter controlled trial has shown that Amgen Inc.'sgranulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) decreased theincidence of a side effect of cancer treatment.

The Phase III study of 211 patients undergoing chemotherapy,published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine,also showed that Neupogen can cut the cost of cancertreatment when therapy is complicated by low white blood cellcounts (neutropenia) and fever.

Treatment with G-CSF in patients with small-cell lung cancercut the median duration of neutropenia following chemotherapyfrom six days with placebo to one day with G-CSF. Incidence ofconfirmed infection was reduced by about 50 percent when G-CSF was given. The drug also cut hospitalization rates and useof intravenous antibiotics for fever and neutropenia by about50 percent.

Bone pain, a side effect of G-CSF reported by 20 percent of thepatients, was rated "moderate" by the researchers, headed byDuke University investigator Jeffrey Crawford, and wastreated with oral analgesics.

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was approvedin February to sell Neupogen for reducing the incidence ofinfection in patients with non-myeloid malignancies receivingmyelosuppressive anti-cancer drugs. A typical patient mayreceive G-CSF for a week to 12 days following chemotherapy,at a cost of $750 to $1,300. The company estimates thathospitalization for neutropenia-induced complications can runseveral thousand dollars.

Competitor Immunex Corp.'s GM-CSF also showed goodeconomic benefits recently in patients recovering from bonemarrow trans-plants following intensive chemotherapy andradiation treatments. -- Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.

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