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Cellectar Biosciences is cheering a handful of accomplishments.

The Madison company, working on cancer-fighting drugs, has gotten important designations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for one of Cellectar's drug compounds as a potential treatment for childhood cancers.

CLR 131 has received orphan drug status to treat rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare type of tissue sarcoma in children. Orphan drug designation provides seven-year market exclusivity, tax credits for certain research, and assistance from the FDA.

CLR 131 also has been granted orphan drug status and rare pediatric disease designation to treat neuroblastoma, a cancer that starts in the nerve tissue. That could result in faster FDA review of the prospective drug.

"Neuroblastoma is a devastating cancer most often found in infants and young children," said John Friend, Cellectar's chief medical officer.

He said the company expects to start a clinical study of CLR 131 for treating neuroblastoma during the second half of 2018.

CLR 131 already is being evaluated in two clinical trials with adult patients for treating certain blood cancers and multiple myeloma. Cellectar has said that CLR 131 can selectively deliver radiation to malignant tumor cells and minimize radiation exposure to normal tissue.

Another Cellectar compound, CLR 124, was featured in a presentation by the company at the 12th World Congress of the World Federation of Nuclear Medicine and Biology. The company showed phase 1 study results demonstrating that CLR 124 can cross the blood-brain barrier and be absorbed into brain tumors.

James Caruso, Cellectar president and CEO, said the recent developments represent "significant progress."

Meanwhile, the company reported a net loss for the first three months of $3.5 million, or 21 cents a share, compared with a $2.9 million net loss, or 24 cents a share, for the same period last year. Expenses rose because of higher clinical project and manufacturing costs, higher consulting fees, and personnel costs incurred in connection with a decision to outsource manufacturing.


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Judy Newman is a business reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.