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Executive Summary

U.S. BIOSCIENCE GAINING WORLDWIDE RIGHTS TO LAMININ TECHNOLOGY under a cooperative R&D agreement with the National Cancer Institute announced March 27. The deal also provides the U.S. Healthcare spinoff with an exclusive license to Type IV collagenase, a tumor-associated enzyme. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. "Our agreement with NCI represents a major step toward developing what may be the first treatment to block the metastatic spread of tumor cells," U.S. Bioscience CEO Philip Schein remarked. "An additional feature of this technology relates to enhanced delivery of chemotherapeutic agents, radionuclides and toxins." An outgrowth of research by Lance Liotta, NCI's chief of pathology and chief of the tumor metastases section, laminin technology is based on the discovery that breast cancer cells along with other major tumor cell types can contain a very high concentration of the glycoprotein laminin. Tumor cells released from a primary cite travel in the bloodstream and attach to the liver or lung through the ability of their laminin receptors to recognize laminin. In animal studies, Liotta and his group at NCI have shown that laminin fragments linked with monoclonal antibodies can be used to block the laminin receptors of tumor cells, thereby preventing tumor cell attachment. "Laminin receptors present an ideal site for delivering cytotoxic and radioactive agents using monoclonal antibodies," the release states. "Once injected, the monoclonal conjugate could target tumor cells for destruction. U.S. Bioscience and the NCI are developing targeted delivery systems that take advantage of the high specificity of these tailored antibodies." The release explains that following attachment at the laminin receptor site, tumor cells then invade healthy tissue by way of the collagen dissolving enzyme Type IV collagenase. Preliminary work at NCI has shown that tumor metastases can also be achieved through the use of drugs that inhibit this enzyme. Originally founded as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the health maintenance organization, U.S. Healthcare, U.S. Bioscience was spun off in late 1987. U.S. Healthcare currently maintains a 30% equity position in the cancer drug R&D firm. In December 1988, U.S. Bioscience filed an NDA for Hexalin (hexamethylmelamine) in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

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