By Peter Winter

BioWorld International Corespondent

OTTAWA, Ontario ¿ Supratek Pharma Inc. is gearing up to start Phase II trials on its lead cancer drug candidate, SP1049C, following the completion of a Phase I study in advanced cancer patients.

SP1049C is based on a combination of doxorubicin, a widely used chemotherapeutic agent, and the Montreal-based company¿s proprietary Biotransport carrier technology. In preclinical testing SP1049C demonstrated up to 1,000 times higher efficacy against drug-resistant tumor cells than doxorubicin.

The UK trial, conducted on 26 patients under the sponsorship of the Cancer Research Campaign, demonstrated clear clinical benefits after treatment with SP1049C. Response was observed on some patients who had previously shown no improvement when treated with conventional doxorubicin, alone or in combination with other drugs, said Valery Alakhov, vice president of research and development of Supratek.

The results of the Phase I trial have suggested the indications for the Phase II trial ¿ adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and soft-tissue sarcoma ¿ which will start in Europe and the UK later this year, Alakhov said. Another Phase II trial against refractory breast cancer also is scheduled to start next year in the United States and Canada.

Supratek¿s Biotransport carrier systems are based on highly flexible and manageable chemistries that are applicable to a wide variety of conventional and biotechnology drugs. The company has applied the technology to develop drugs for the treatment of cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and central nervous system and viral diseases. Supratek also has developed nonviral vectors for gene delivery and DNA vaccination.