MONTREAL _ For patients suffering with leukemia, a bonemarrow transplant from a compatible donor offers a possible cure fortheir fatal disease. Unfortunately, transplants are available only toabout 25 percent of affected individuals due to lack of suitabledonors. However, the research of a Montreal-based biotechnologycompany may offer some hope.

Ongoing research, initiated by Theratechnologies Inc. and theUniversity of Montreal, into the development of a photodynamictreatment of leukemia has led to the discovery of a new photoactivedrug against chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), which represents15 percent of all leukemias.

Andre de Villers, president and director of research and developmentat the company, told BioWorld International that over the last fouryears Theratechnologies has developed a light sensitive moleculewhich has proved, in laboratory studies, very efficient for CMLtreatment.

The new therapeutic approach developed by Theratechnologies, deVillers said, permits autografting. This autologous bone marrowtransplantation consists of reinfusing the patient's own bone marrowafter an in vitro purging of the leukemic cells through photodynamictreatment. This therapy offers an alternative to patients who, inadvanced phases of the disease, have a low probability of short- ormedium-term survival.

During the process, a sample of the patient's bone marrow is exposedsuccessively to the photoactive drug, which concentrates in thediseased cells, and to light. The activating light source inducesirreversible damage to these cells leading to apoptosis.

This type of treatment means that it could be applied to all patientssuffering from CML.

Theratechnologies has just received $C350,000 from the NationalResearch Council of Canada (NRC). According to de Villers, thefunding will allow the company to advance the project into Phase Iclinical trials. n

-- Peter Winter BioWorld International Correspondent

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.