Centocor Inc., Horsham, a subsidiary of Johnson and Johnson, said data published in today's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine showed that patients treated with injections of the company's experimental CNTO 1275 compound experienced "significant clearance" of moderate to severe psoriasis, an itchy skin condition.

Centocor said that at week 12 of the study 81 percent of patients receiving doses of CNTO 1275 achieved at least 75 percent improvement in their psoriasis, compared with 2 percent of patients receiving placebo.

Centocor is hoping the experimental compound will build on its success with Remicade, its flagship product, approved for use against Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis and other inflammatory diseases.

CNTO 1275 is a human monoclonal antibody in late-stage Phase 3 testing.

"The notion that a single, simple injection of this experimental treatment wipes psoriasis off a significant proportion of test subjects is a stunning development," said Michael Paranzino, president of Psoriasis Cure Now, a nonprofit patient advocacy group, in a statement.

The Kensington, Md., group said that more than 70 potential psoriasis treatments are in development by pharmaceutical companies.

Psoriasis causes itchy, painful patches of thick, red, scaly skin. The chronic disease is thought to start with the immune system overreacting to the body's own cells. More than 5 million Americans suffer from it.

Contact staff writer Linda Loyd at 215-854-2831 or lloyd@phillynews.com.