SYDNEY, Australia - The University of New South Wales (NSW) in Sydney intends to develop a promising molecule for preventing the formation of blood vessels in tumors by taking the molecule through to Phase III trials.

Philip Hogg, a professor of biochemistry in the NSW Faculty of Medicine, said the university would not be handing the recently identified glutathionarsenoxide (GSAO) over to a commercial development company.

Instead, the university intends to handle the early development itself and then use the UK cancer foundation, the Cancer Research Campaign, to run trials through to Phase III on an "academic basis." Provided GSAO meets certain initial requirements, the CRC will run the trials, asking only that if a commercial product results it will be repaid for trial costs.

All the early development, including the toxicity tests, will be conducted by the university, and then the university's commercialization company, Uniquest Ltd., will conduct Phase I trials on up to 40 subjects. The design and exact size of the trials had not been finalized. Listed company International Drug Technology Ltd., of Sydney, has been contracted to make sufficient GSAO to conduct the trials.

Hogg and Neil Donoghue identified GSAO as a spin-off from anti-AIDS research. While investigating the mechanism by which HIV enters cells they discovered that the virus attaches itself to a CD4 receptor protein on the surface cell, changes the receptor's shape, and then forces its way into the cell.

They found in the laboratory that GSAO could stop the receptor shape from changing, indicating that the molecule has potential in fighting AIDS. But the university has since handed over the anti-AIDS side of the research, including the next step of tests on animals, to another company.

"Anti-AIDS testing requires monkeys and we don't have the wherewithal to do that," Hogg said.

Instead, Hogg and Donoghue looked at GSAO's effect on angiogenesis (the formation of blood vessels), which is needed for the growth of tumors, as they realized that a very similar mechanism involving CD4 also took place in angiogenesis. They found that GSAO also stopped angiogenesis and subsequent tests on mice, they said, had a 90 percent tumor inhibition rate.

"It still has to be seen whether it works in humans, but it looks promising," Hogg said.

There are other anti-angiogenesis molecules in various stages of development around the world, including a compound being developed by Progen Ltd., based in Brisbane, Australia.

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