* Cell Genesys Inc., of Foster City, Calif., released preliminary results of an ongoing Phase I/II trial of GVAX vaccine in prostate cancer. The data indicate the drug was safe and well tolerated, and resulted in antitumor effects as measured by blood levels of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Eleven of 15 evaluable patients at three months or longer enjoyed disease stabilization and a slowdown in the rate of increase of PSA. Two patients experienced a PSA decline of more than 50 percent, in one case continuing after six months. GVAX consists of irradiated prostate cancer cells that have been genetically modified to continually produce granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor.
* Cerebrus Holdings plc, of London, inked a deal with Eli Lilly and Co., of Indianapolis, for joint development of a compound with potential for treating a number of central nervous system related indications, including delayed and anticipatory vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. Lilly originally developed the drug, a 5HT1A receptor agonist dubbed CEB-1555 by Cerebrus. Under the agreement, Cerebrus will take over clinical development through the end of Phase II trials. Lilly retains an option to develop and commercialize CEB-1555 at the end of Phase II or allow Cerebrus to undertake Phase III development, registration and marketing, either alone or with a partner.
* EntreMed Inc., of Rockville, Md., signed a five-year Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to advance development of the anti-angiogenic protein Endostatin. With the NCI pitching in, the company now expects to take the protein into clinical trials in 1999. Under the agreement, EntreMed will supply recombinant human Endostatin to the NCI for specific preclinical pharmacology and toxicology testing, and for anticipated clinical studies. EntreMed will perform Endostatin detection assays and, with the NCI, will design, review and interpret preclinical results for the preparation and submission of an investigational new drug application to the FDA. EntreMed and the NCI have been working together on the protein since last year under a CRADA Letter of Intent.
* Genetronics Biomedical Ltd., of San Diego, is conducting an investigator meeting in San Antonio, Texas, as part of its ongoing review of head and neck cancer trials taking place in the U.S., Canada and France. About 20 physicians who use Genetronics' Electroporation Therapy will attend. Electroporation utilizes brief, carefully controlled, pulsed electrical fields to open temporary pores in the cell membrane, thus allowing the anticancer drug bleomycin to enter the tumor cell's interior and kill it.
* Ilex Oncology Inc., of San Antonio, Texas, inked a joint development agreement with Symphar SA, of Geneva, Switzerland, covering Symphar's SR-45023A, an orally active bisphosphonate ester derivative that selectively targets cancer cells, inducing their death through apoptosis. Under the agreement, Ilex gains an ownership position in the drug, currently in a Phase I trial in advanced metastatic cancer, and can negotiate for all future rights. Ilex will conduct all future clinical development activities.
* Maxim Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Diego, entered a collaboration with BioNative AB, of Umea, Sweden, to test Maxamine and interleukin-2 in combination with BioNative's natural cytokine, Interferon Alfanative. The Phase II trial will enroll patients with renal cell carcinoma. Maxamine — Maxim's lead drug candidate — is in Phase III trials for malignant melanoma and acute myelogenous leukemia, and has reached Phase II as a treatment for hepatitis C infection.