More potent cancer drug made from platinum shows promise in clinical trials

December 13, 2000

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HONOLULU, Dec. 14 - Clinical trials of a new platinum-based cancer drug could hold promise for many cancer patients, in particular the nearly 25,000 women in the United States who develop ovarian cancer each year, according to research presented here today during the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies.

The weeklong scientific meeting, held once every five years, is hosted by the American Chemical Society, in conjunction with its counterparts in Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

Platinum is "front-line therapy" for ovarian as well as testicular cancer, according to Professor Nicholas Farrell, Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., one of the inventors of the drug. One of the principal platinum drugs now used is cisplatin, but ovarian cancer cells in particular can quickly develop resistance to cisplatin. In mice, the new drug showed activity against ovarian cancer that was resistant to cisplatin.

The new drug "is the first genuinely new platinum agent to enter clinical trials in 30 years," says Farrell. He believes that it could be on the market as early as 2004.

Code-named BBR3464, it belongs to a new class of platinum drugs, which emerged from joint research by Farrell and Novuspharama SpA (formerly Boehringer Mannheim Italia R&D) in Monza, Italy. By manipulating the molecular structure, Farrell and his colleagues found a way to attack DNA more effectively to keep cancer from spreading.

The new drug is significantly more potent than cisplatin, according to Farrell. This means much lower doses can be given, he explained.

In Phase I studies of 47 cancer patients completed in Europe last year, the new class of drugs showed preliminary signs of activity against pancreatic cancer, melanoma and lung cancer, Farrell said. Phase II clinical trials, which could involve more than 200 patients, are underway in Europe and the United States. One study will deal specifically with ovarian cancer.

Ovarian cancer has been on the rise in the last decade and is now the fifth leading cause of cancer deaths in women in the United States. Testicular cancer is much rarer and far less deadly, but is the most common form of cancer for young men between the ages of 15 and 35. Farrell thinks the platinum-based drugs eventually could be useful against pancreatic cancer, one of the most difficult to treat.

The new class of drugs has potential for further development that could lead to "even better compounds and drugs down the road," says Farrell.

Primary funding for the research was from the American Cancer Society and the National Institutes of Health. BBR3464 is licensed to Roche, a research-oriented healthcare group, and is being developed under a sublicense by Novuspharma.

More than 8,000 research papers will be presented during this year's International Chemical Congress, which is sponsored jointly by the American Chemical Society, the Chemical Society of Japan, the Canadian Society of Chemistry, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry.
The paper on this research, INOR 16, will be presented at 10:05 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 14, at the Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu Room, 2nd floor, during the symposium, "New trends in biofunctional metal complexes."

Nicholas Farrell is a professor in the department of chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.

American Chemical Society

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