British Bio-technology Group plc is starting a clinical trial withthe first of a new class of compounds designed to inhibitenzymes used by tumor cells during metastasis.

The compound, BB-94, was designed through medicinalchemistry to inhibit metalloproteinases that break down theextracellular matrix. The Oxford, England, company(NASDAQ:BBIOY) used genetic engineering techniques to purifythese enzymes so inhibitors could be designed and tested.

The Phase I/II trial will test the injectable compound inpatients with malignant ascites, a painful accumulation of fluid-filled tumor cells. The patients to be tested will haveunderlying cancers of either the ovary, stomach or colon.

Normally, ascites fluid is physically drained to improvecomfort, but this often needs to be repeated. Preclinical studiesshowed that BB-94 prevents fluid accumulation and inhibitsthe growth of tumor cells in a model of ovarian cancer.

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