AntiCancer Inc., a privately held biotechnology company, said ithas received from the National Cancer Institute two Phase Ismall business innovation research grants -- its 11th and 12th--totaling $100,00 to further develop its tumor-specifictherapeutics.

SBIR grants are awarded by government agencies to companieswhose prospects show high scientific merit and commercialpotential.

The San Diego company is developing drugs that distinguishspecific properties of tumors. Its main product candidate isAC9301, a methioninase that cleaves the circulating amino acidmethionine. Methionine is absolutely required by many tumorsfor growth, but not required by normal tissues, which can buildproteins using its precursor, homocysteiene.

"It's a way to selectively starve the tumor," AntiCancer'spresident, Robert Hoffman, told BioWorld. The enzyme occursin lower organisms. The company has a patent pending on itspurification and is working to genetically engineer itsproduction, Hoffman said.

AC9301 not only starves tumors, it also prevents tumor growthand selectively synchronizes the tumor in its cell cycle, makingit highly susceptible to cell cycle-specific drugs.

One of the SBIR grants just awarded concerns technology toidentify patient tumors susceptible to AC9301. The other grantsupports studies of the company's animal model of humancancer, MetaMouse, to evaluate new tumor-specific drugs.

Technology developed by AntiCancer allows intact patienttissue to be transplanted into the corresponding organ ofimmunodeficient rodents such as "nude" or "SCID" mice. Thetumors then grow and metastasize in the mice, as they did inthe patient, so new agents to prevent tumor growth andmetastasis can be evaluated.

AntiCancer's work is supported by SBIR grants, licenseagreements and contractual work for pharmaceuticalcompanies, Hoffman said. In a major agreement with the EikenChemical Co. of Tokyo, a three-dimensional "histaculture" oftumor cells grown on collagen sponge gels is used for drug-response assays.

"Our preclinical evaluation technology is unmatched," Hoffmansaid. "It can go literally from the bench to the bedside." Thecompany expects to announce publication of two new scientificjournal articles regarding MetaMouse, he added.

-- Nancy Garcia Associate Editor

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

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