Ligand Pharmaceuticals Inc. announced Monday that it isexpanding its program to discover and develop novel anti-cancer therapeutics.

Through its agreement with the National Cancer Institute, theSan Diego company now has access to samples in the NCI'sNatural Products Repository, a collection of about 70,000extracts of plants, fungi, marine invertebrates and othermicroorganisms. Ligand (NASDAQ:LGNDA) will screen thosesamples for novel anti-cancer drugs.

"Initially, we will use Ligand's proprietary drug discovery andscreening technology to identify within the NCI's extensivenatural products library potential small molecule cancertherapeutics that target intracellular receptors, includingreceptors for sex steroids and retinoids," said Mark Goldman,director, new leads discovery and principal investigator forLigand's anti-cancer program with the NCI.

"Access to this collection can be expected to greatly increaseour rate of discovery of new compounds with activity againstthese targets," he said.

Ligand's lead retinoid analogs are in preclinical developmentfor treating several cancers, including leukemia. And thecompany has also identified lead anti-cancer compounds thatinteract with the intracellular receptors for sex hormones, uponwhich many types of tumors depend for growth. -- JenniferVan Brunt

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