Trials begin on pill that could control cancer

BY CELIA HALL

Medical Editor

Trials with patients have just started on a cancer "pill" that is designed to stop tumours growing and prevent the spread of disease.

While its inventor, British Biotech of Oxford, stresses that the project is at a very early stage, it says the drug, a chemical compound called BB-2516, has exciting potential.

The trials started last month in Britain and the US. So far, only 10 patients with either colon, ovarian, prostate or pancreatic cancer have been enrolled. For a month they will take two capsules a day. All are patients with secondary cancers for whom no standard treatment is available.

More patients will be recruited into the programme this year, to a total of 30 in each group. Additionally, Canadian authorities have given permission for a similar trial with patients with the skin cancer, melanoma.

Keith McCullagh, chief executive of British Biotech, said: "If you can take a pill every day for the rest of your life that keeps the cancer under control, it will transform people's expectations of cancer."

However, he warned against raising expectations too high at this stage, despite encouraging trials in animals.

He said: "Until we complete these preliminary human trials, we can't say anything positive."

The drug blocks the actions of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases. In cancer tumours they are overproduced. By disrupting their activity, BB-2516 should stop cancer spreading and prevent tumours from establishing their own blood supply, which they need to grow. It is designed to treat solid cancers, not leukaemias.

Trials in mice were successful and last year the safety of the drug in humans was tested on 30 healthy volunteers.

They took the drug for a day, then for a week without side-effects. The scientists were also able to establish that at different doses, enough of the drug survives in the bloodstream to be effective.

A spokeswoman for British Biotech said the company believed it was the first in the world to be at the clinical trials stage with this class of drug.

"It is very early days, but it is exciting," she said.

British Biotech was founded 9 years ago, and originally employed just 10 scientists. The workforce has since expanded to more than 300.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy