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Fox Chase Cancer Center and Immunicon Corporation Awarded NIH Small Business Technology Transfer Grant

PHILADELPHIA (June 13, 2005) -- The National Institutes of Health has awarded Fox Chase Cancer Center and Immunicon Corporation (NASDAQ: IMMC), Huntingdon Valley, Pa., a Small Business Technology Transfer grant totaling more than $587,000. The NIH grant funds the development of a new strategy to actively monitor the effectiveness of cancer drugs in clinical trials.

Physicians have been able to offer, and many patients have benefited from, new drugs in recent years that specifically target tumor cells. These newer, targeted drugs often prolong life without the serious side effects typical of some traditional treatments. Scientists are now exploring new ways to expedite this process of researching and developing targeted therapies-- a process that often takes a decade or more.

"The development of new treatments for cancer would be greatly facilitated if we could sample a person's tumor multiple times during treatment," explained Louis M. Weiner, MD, vice president of translational research and chairman of medical oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center. "However, it isn't always possible or appropriate to perform repeat biopsies that are invasive and sometimes uncomfortable or painful."

To remedy this deficiency in cancer drug development, researchers at Fox Chase and Immunicon are pursuing a novel way to investigate the pharmacodynamics, or the drug-tumor interaction, by examining a patient's blood for the presence of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and tumor cell material.

"We now know that even early cancers can shed tumor cells into the bloodstream that then circulate in the body," Weiner said. "The overall goal of our research is to investigate the circulating tumor cells in a patient's blood to see if those cells can tell us what effect, if any, a drug is having on the tumor."

"In the future, we may be able to know within the first few weeks or even less if a drug is working for a patient. If it isn't working, therapy can be changed with less loss of precious time."

The current way of tracking the progress of treatment is to wait about eight weeks or longer to see if a CT scan or MRI can detect tumor changes related to treatment.

"Another benefit of analyzing the drug-tumor interaction is determining the right drug dose," Weiner added. "In many cases, the appropriate drug dose isn't what can be maximally tolerated by the patient, but rather the lowest dose found to selectively and thoroughly inhibit the function of the tumor."

In addition to investigating CTCs in samples of the patient's blood, researchers will analyze gene expression in these cells using microarray analysis. Earlier studies have shown that microarray analysis of gene expression conducted on CTCs corresponds to gene expression patterns seen at tumor sites. Now, the work will be extended to determine the feasibility of using CTCs to monitor the effects of investigational therapy in clinical trials.

Small Business Technology Transfer Program

The National Institutes of Health's Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program is designed to encourage collaboration between academia and small businesses. STTR grants provide support for research and development of new technologies and methodologies that have the potential to succeed as commercial products.

Immunicon Corporation

Immunicon Corporation is developing and commercializing proprietary cell- and molecular-based human diagnostic and life-science research products with an initial focus on cancer disease management. The Company has developed platform technologies for selection and analysis of rare cells in blood, such as circulating tumor cells and circulating endothelial cells that are important in many diseases and biological processes. Immunicon's products and underlying technology platforms also have application in the clinical development of cancer drugs and in cancer research and may have applications in other fields of medicine, such as cardiovascular and infectious diseases. www.immunicon.com


Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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