Cell Therapeutics said it hit its treatment goals in a trial of pixantrone in patients with relapsed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, but investors...

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Cell Therapeutics said it hit its treatment goals in a trial of pixantrone in patients with relapsed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but investors sold off the Seattle company’s stock anyhow.

The 38-patient late-stage clinical trial compared pixantrone in combination with Rituxan — the first monoclonal antibody approved in the U.S. for treating cancer — to Rituxan alone. Patients who received the combination treatment went an average of 13.2 months without the cancer advancing, while in patients taking just Rituxan the disease progressed in 8.1 months.

Also, three-quarters of patients on the combined treatment saw the size of their tumors reduced by half or more, compared to one-third of patients in the other group.

One issue for the company: The study succeeded in recruiting only 5 percent of the patients it had sought.

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Designed to enroll 728 patients, the Phase III trial was closed in 2004 due to difficulty meeting that target. Investigators still had statistically significant results, the company said, despite the small patient population.

The company’s stock fell 26 cents, or 9.6 percent, Wednesday after the results were announced, and dropped another 2 cents Thursday, closing at $2.43.