83.9 F
San Diego
Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

Local Biotechs Pitch Findings at Cancer Conference

Local Biotechs Pitch Findings at Cancer Conference

Biotech: Data Presented Looks Toward the Future


Chances are a good number of local cancer-research companies were in short supply of key scientists last week.

Many of them were in Orlando, Fla., to present new findings at the 95th annual event of the American Association for Cancer Research.

The gathering drew some 13,500 scientists to the March 27-31 event.

Included were representatives from San Diego-based biotechnology companies such as Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc., Avanir Pharmaceuticals Inc., CancerVax Corp., Nereus Pharmaceuticals Inc., Maxim Pharmaceuticals, and Cylene Pharmaceuticals.

Ligand, which recently reported the first quarterly profit in its 15-year history, presented positive data from laboratory studies combining Targretin, its approved oral cancer drug, with chemotherapies, such as Taxol.

Taxol is an important treatment for non-small cell lung cancer, breast cancer and other cancers, but known to become resistant to tumor cells over time, Ligand said.

In the first study, Ligand showed that adding Targretin to Taxol can prevent or reserve drug resistance to Taxol in non-small cell lung cancer cell lines.

In another study, combining Targretin and chemotherapy also seemed more effective in slowing tumor growth in lung cancer cell lines than using chemotherapy alone.

“These data support our clinical observations in Phase I/II trials that Targretin has beneficial effects when used in combination or sequentially with cytotoxic agents in advanced non-small cell lung cancer,” said Dr. Andres Negro-Vilar, Ligand’s chief scientific officer in a written statement dated March 29.

Tagretin was approved in 1999 for use in non-small lung cancer patients who had prior therapy. Ligand hopes to expand Targretin’s narrow market share, experts said.

Ligand’s stock closed down 70 cents at $20.10 on March 31.

Saskia T.C. Neuteboom, Nereus’ director of oncology research and development, presented encouraging breast cancer data from its lead drug candidate NPI-2358.

Nereus plans to submit an application to the Food and Drug Administration by year-end to start testing the compound in humans.

Another local biotech, Maxim Pharmaceuticals also presented positive animal data.

Maxim said its potential drug MX 116407 slowed tumor growth, significantly raised anti-tumor activity when combined with existing anti-cancer drugs, and induced cell death in cancer cells during animal studies.

On March 31, Maxim’s stock fell 11 cents closing at $8.56.

Avanir, which sells the over-the-counter cold sore treatment Abreva, said on March 29, its anti-cancer compounds may be useful for cancers, such as melanoma, breast, prostate, and the central nervous system, based on laboratory and animal studies.

Avanir’s stock closed at $1.79 on March 31.

President and CEO William Rice of the little known local start-up Cylene Pharmaceuticals, took it upon himself to present data from its lead compound in colorectal, prostate and pancreatic cancer.

The small molecule drug, CX-3543, which targets a cancer-causing gene called c-Myc, seemed to be able to stop tumors from growing in mice. Cylene plans more animal studies, which if successful, could lead to human trials.

Publicly held CancerVax Corp., whose lead drug is an experimental vaccine for treating melanoma, presented early findings from its monoclonal antibodies and synthetic peptides which it licensed to its Cell-Matrix Inc. unit.

CancerVax’s scientists said the antibodies appear to block blood vessels from forming that tumors feed on to grow.

The data comes from melanoma and breast cancer studies in animals.

David Hale, CancerVax’s president and CEO, believes the antibodies may have potential when combined with other therapies, such as radiation, immunotherapy and chemotherapy.

CancerVax’s stock was up 30 cents closing at $10.60 on March 31.


Featured Articles


Related Articles