SYDNEY - Shares in Progen Ltd. soared briefly by A$1.65 to A$9.80 on news the company is bringing forward Phase I trials of its cancer drug following promising animal trial results. Progen's shares then fell to close last week at A$6.90.

The company's stock hit A$13.20 in February 1997, when it announced successful animal trials for its anti-solid-tumor drug, PI-88, but fell well below A$5 earlier this year on a generally weak Australian market.

Alan Scott, chairman of Brisbane-based Progen, said the earlier animal trials with PI-88 resulted in shrinkage of solid tumors. And the recent trials combining PI-88 with chemotherapy revealed “very encouraging“ results in the reduction of those tumors and elimination of secondary cancers.

He declined to be more specific about the results, but commented the company was sufficiently encouraged to apply immediately for approval for Phase I trials to be held in Melbourne and London.

Each Phase I trial will involved 30 subjects. The company is prepared to go immediately to Phase II trials involving several hundred patients if the Phase I results are sufficiently encouraging, Scott said.

As previously reported, PI-88 was developed by researchers at the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the Australian National University, in Canberra. (See BioWorld International, Dec. 17, 1997, p. 4.)

The molecule is a retailored polysaccharide with a sulphate chain attached, and is believed capable of halting the action of the enzyme heparanase, common to all tumor cells. As heparanase is a vital link in the mechanism by which a tumor cell burrows into a blood vessel wall, blocking the enzyme helps prevent the spread of secondary tumors. *