MGI Pharma Inc. has acquired a new category of anticanceragents called acylfulvenes from the University of California atSan Diego, the company announced on Tuesday.

Acylfulvenes, derived from a class of compounds calledsesquiterpenes, are semi-synthetically produced from theOmphalotus illudens mushroom. MGI Pharma (NASDAQ:MOGN)said it has "a novel mechanism of action that appears to be ableto inhibit the growth of tumor cells without being excessivelytoxic to healthy cells." The company noted that in laboratoryand animal studies, acylfulvenes have killed tumors "moreeffectively than conventional anti-cancer agents" and "appearto be effective against tumors that have become resistant tomost traditional cancer agents."

The compounds were discovered and developed to date byuniversity researchers Trevor McMorris and Michael Kelnerand their colleagues. McMorris emphasized that the compoundshave an entirely different structure than any known canceragents. He told BioWorld that the exact mechanism of action isnot known, but the compounds appear to act as alkylatingagents in the cell.

The acylfulvene analogs are in preclinical testing and MGIPharma commented that several years of testing will benecessary to determine if they are useful in treating cancer.

The Minneapolis, Minn.-based company's focus is on developingproducts that improve the quality of life for chronically andcritically ill cancer patients. It has two products on the market,Didronel I.V. Infusion, for treatment of hypercalcemia, andOratect Gel, for treatment of oral mucositis caused by radiationand chemotherapy. -- Brenda Sandburg

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