REHOVOT, Israel - Pharmos Corp. is developing a drug called TMI designed to improve upon tamoxifen (the antiestrogenic hormonal agent, first approved as adjuvant therapy for breast cancer following surgery) without its side effects, such as increased likelihood of uterine cancer and intensified menopausal symptoms.

Like tamoxifen, TMI stops tumors from spreading. But the company said TMI, unlike tamoxifen, eliminates existing tumors of all kinds within six weeks in 40 percent of mice tested. This observation was traced to TMI's ability to strangle the supply of blood that tumors need to live.

“Tamoxifen works as a prophylactive agent in estrogen-dependent vessel growth, but TMI works on all vessels, because it inhibits all metalloproteases, thus preventing invasion into lung and other solid tumors,“ Pharmos CEO Haim Aviv said.

Another Pharmos drug, dexanabinol (HU-211), is derived from the cannabis plant and “could become part of standard treatment of nerve gas attacks together with atropin,“ said Anat Bigeon, Pharmos vice president of R&D.

The Israeli-developed marijuana-like dexanabinol may be effective in protecting the brain against damage caused by the nerve gas soman, and has been tested at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense.

Originally intended to study the neuroprotective effects of dexanabinol on damage caused by seizures, the Army's preclinical research showed that administration of dexanabinol at either five minutes or 40 minutes after onset of gas-induced seizures reduced brain damage by 78 percent in laboratory rats.

The Army study concluded that “HU-211 provides considerable neuroprotection against brain damage resulting from soman-induced seizures, despite having no apparent effect on the seizures themselves.“ According to Bigeon, “What is clinically relevant is that the dexanabinol is protective even after seizures have begun.“

Dexanabinol has a unique, multifocal mechanism of action. It was proven effective in treatment in animal models of stroke, head trauma and multiple sclerosis.

“Long-term neural damages resulting from exposure to nerve gas could be minimized by dexanabinol. It is a very effective broad-range neuroprotectant,“ Bigeon said.

Dexanabinol is currently in Phase II trials to treat head trauma. *