Roberta Friedman, Ph.D.Special to BioWorld

Researchers have developed powerful new versions of a simplechemical that already has been shown to work against cancer.

The new compounds are so potent that they will work inmilligram rather than in gram amounts, according to apresentation Wednesday by Columbia University chemistRonald Breslow at the Fourth Chemical Congress of NorthAmerica, meeting in New York.

In April, Columbia and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centersigned an agreement with Sterling Drug Inc. to develop thechemicals into cancer treatments.

Breslow presented data on new agents that are 1,000 timesmore potent in binding an enzyme, a form of protein kinase C,an action that causes cancer cells to switch out of the dividingmode and causes them to mature instead.

The cells, Breslow said, "start to differentiate instead of justreproducing."

The parent compound, called hexamethylene bis-acetamide,entered clinical trials seven years ago. One patient with lungcancer who received the chemical is still alive after sevenyears.

Various chemicals such as phorbol esters can promote cancerby binding to another isozyme of protein kinase C. "If youactivate the major (isozyme), you cause cancer. If you bind theminor one, you cure it," Breslow said.

The new drugs will be tested in animals for toxicity, and themost promising one will then enter clinical trials uponapproval by the Food and Drug Administration, Breslow toldBioWorld.

Preclinical testing will start in two weeks, he said.

Patent applications covering the new compounds are inpreparation, and publication of the new data will follow thefiling, Breslow said. Sterling, based in New York, will fund theresearch and will have a worldwide exclusive license to anydrug resulting from the development program.

The agreement includes milestone payments and salesroyalties.

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