Guilford focuses on ovarian cancer Company's gel treatment may get human trial late this year or early in 1999; Pharmaceuticals


Guilford Pharmaceuticals Inc., the Baltimore-based biotechnology firm, expects to move an experimental treatment for ovarian cancer into human trials late this year or early next year, Dr. Craig Smith, the company's chief executive officer, told analysts and investment managers yesterday at the BT Alex. Brown health care conferance.

Craig was among the 200 biotechnology and health care executives scheduled to give presentations at the event being held in Baltimore. It concludes tomorrow.

The treatment Guilford is developing is a biodegradable polymer-based gel containing the powerful cancer-fighting drug taxol. The publicly held company believes the gel could be either surgically implanted or injected into tumor sites.

Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s taxol treatment is one of the most widely prescribed drugs for breast cancer. A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recently backed Bristol-Myers' request to market it as a treatment for late-stage lung and ovarian cancers.

About 27,000 cases of ovarian cancer are diagnosed annually in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. The reproductive gland disease causes more deaths among women than any other form of cancer because the disease is often missed until late in its progression.

Smith said the company is developing a taxol product that would release the drug slowly over the course of about a month.

"We think we can get better tolerability while maintaining efficacy," Smith said yesterday.

The company also has its eye on showing that its taxol gel could be a potent treatment for other types of solid tumors, Smith said.

The executive said the company plans to seek a marketing rights deal with a pharmaceutical company for the product, but he cautioned that such a deal may not come for some time. The company plans to first compile human trial results before striking such a deal.

Compelling human trial results would strengthen the company's bargaining position, Smith said.

"We will have to go farther in clinicals to get good royalties," Smith said.

Nick Langekic, Guilford's vice president for business development, said the company believes its taxol product would be preferred over currently available treatments because the gradual release of the drug does not cause adverse reactions.

Abdominal wall inflammation and other adverse reactions have been seen in women with ovarian cancer who are treated weekly with taxol injections.

"One of our major goals is to develop cancer treatments which diminish side effects," said Langekic.

Smith also told investors yesterday that the company would abandon its efforts to find a manufacturing partner for its diagnostic test for Parkinson's disease, called Dopascan, in the next several months unless it can strike a deal that would allow the test to be marketed at a reasonable price.

Smith also told the conference that the market penetration for its Gliadel wafer, an implantable chemo-loaded wafer to treat brain cancer after surgery, improved during the first quarter of this year.

Guilford and Rhone Poulenc Rorer, which licensed marketing rights to the cancer treatment, estimate that 30 percent of the potential patients for the treatment are receiving it.

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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