The American Association for Cancer Research conducted its annual meeting in Los Angeles last week. Following is a summary of some of the information presented.

• Antisoma plc, of London, presented preclinical data supporting certain drug candidates. An evaluation showed synergy when Antisoma's vascular disrupting agent AS1404 was used with Avastin and paclitaxel in a lung cancer model. It also showed synergistic effect with Erbitux in a lung cancer model. It also said the aptamer drug AS1411 kills cells from a variety of cancer cell lines, and said it has potential for use with other treatments. AS1411 has completed Phase I development.

• ChemGenex Pharmaceuticals Ltd., of Melbourne, Australia, presented preclinical data on its lead compound, Ceflatonin (homoharringtonine, or HHT), demonstrating its oral bioavailability and further describing its mechanism of action. Ceflatonin is in Phase II/III trials for chronic myeloid leukemia patients who are resistant to tyrosine kinase inhibitors. The product, previously identified as an inhibitor of protein synthesis, regulates the binding of transcription factors in a more specific manner than the non-specific protein synthesis inhibitor cycloheximide. Separately, it said a preclinical agent (CXS299) up-regulates the expression of the tumor suppressor p53 and circumvents resistance to cisplatin.

• Epigenomics AG, of Frankfurt, Germany, presented data from its colorectal cancer screening test development program showing that a modification of the assay procedure and rules for test result interpretation significantly improved the performance of its DNA-Methylation biomarker Septin 9 for the early detection of colorectal cancer in blood plasma. Using those modifications Septin 9 detected 70 percent (91 out of 130) of the colorectal cancers in the study and was falsely positive in only 10 percent (19 out of 183) of the cancer-free controls. When specificity was set at 97 percent (3 percent false-positive rate in the non-cancerous controls), 63 percent of cancers were reliably detected. Also, a 70 percent cancer detection rate was achieved in individuals found to have earlier-stage disease (stage I-III, 75 out of 107). Epigenomics now is focusing on streamlining and simplifying the assay procedure to cut test costs and improve ease of use.

• ExonHit Therapeutics SA, of Paris, said a panel of gene expression biomarkers effectively identified breast cancer patients at an early stage (I/II). An 85 percent sensitivity and 87 percent specificity were obtained from a group of 188 patients and controls. The panel provided similar results when applied to an independent cohort of 60 women. A prospective clinical study that will include 1,875 individuals began in September, with collaborator bioMerieux, of Paris.

• GlaxoSmithKline plc, of London, said its cervical cancer candidate vaccine, Cervarix, demonstrated 100 percent efficacy in preventing precancerous lesions due to cancer-causing human papillomavirus types 16 and 18 for up to 5.5 years. Data came from an extended follow-up trial. The vaccine also showed 68 percent vaccine efficacy against precancerous lesions (CIN2+) and 38 percent vaccine efficacy against abnormal pap smears, regardless of the type of cancer-causing virus detected. The study provided further preliminary evidence of cross-protection against incident infection with cancer-causing virus types 45 and 31 that also extended up to 5.5 years after vaccination. GSK has filed for approval of the vaccine with the FDA.