Cancer drug trials cheer UK firm

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BRITISH Bio-technology yesterday announced encouraging results from a small-scale study of Batimastat, its cancer drug, writes Paul Durman.

A trial at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh showed Batimastat could inhibit the development of tumour cells in patients with ovarian and other abdominal cancers.

The drug was well tolerated, caused no serious side-effects and was well absorbed into the blood after a single dose. Professor John Smyth, the principal study investigator, said he was 'very encouraged'.

Of the 15 patients who received Batimastat, 12 went four weeks or more without doctors having to drain the usual build-up of fluid and tumour cells from their abdomens.

Peter Lewis, research and development director, said phase two testing of the drug on 100-120 patients would take place in the UK and US. Batimastat avoids problems associated with many other anti-cancer treatments because it does not seek to kill tumour cells.

British Bio-tech hopes to seek authorisation for Batimastat by the end of next year and to begin marketing by the end of 1996. Although the company has a well-advanced product intended to combat the onset of Aids, it will concentrate mainly on cancer research.

Shares in British Bio-tech continued their recent strength yesterday, rising 5p to 450p.