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Immunomedics Discovers Potential New Therapy For Graft-Versus-Host Disease

MORRIS PLAINS, N.J., Oct. 9, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Immunomedics, Inc. (Nasdaq:IMMU), a biopharmaceutical company primarily focused on the development of monoclonal antibody-based products for the targeted treatment of cancer, autoimmune and other serious diseases, today announced the publication of a preclinical study that shows milatuzumab, the Company's proprietary humanized anti-CD74 antibody, effectively prevents the onset and manifestations of acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in a humanized-mouse model.

Acute GVHD is a medical complication following bone marrow or stem cell transplant. It occurs when white blood cells transplanted from a donor start attacking the recipient's body after recognizing the recipient's body as foreign. According to published reports, the number of stem cell transplantations continues to increase, with more than 20,000 transplantations from donors performed annually worldwide. In 2006, the estimated number of stem cell transplantations reported in the U.S. to the Center for International Blood and Marrow Transplant Research was 6,100 (3,800 related donors and 2,300 unrelated donors).

The global incidence of acute GVHD ranges from 26% to 34% in recipients of full matched sibling donor grafts, to 42% to 52% in recipients of matched unrelated donor grafts, and is a major cause of non-relapse mortality, with >50% 2-year non-relapse mortality in patients with grade III/IV GVHD. Current therapy for acute GVHD is suboptimal, especially for patients who do not respond to corticosteroids, with an estimated 2 year non-relapse mortality of 73% in refractory patients. Prevention and treatment of GVHD remains a major challenge.

Milatuzumab is the first humanized anti-CD74 antibody currently being developed for the treatment of relapsed or refractory B-cell malignancies. Previous preclinical studies have shown that it has potent cytotoxicity against CD74-expressing malignant B cells. In addition to B cells, CD74 is also widely expressed in antigen-presenting cells (APCs), which include monocytes, macrophages, and dendritic cells (DCs). More recent preclinical studies have demonstrated that milatuzumab was capable of modulating human B-cell proliferation, migration, and adhesion molecule expression, suggesting that this antibody also may be effective in the therapy of autoimmune diseases.

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