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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / BIOTECHNOLOGY

3 O.C. Drug Firms, 37 in State Working on Cancer Treatments

April 10, 2001|MARC BALLON

Three Orange County companies are among the 37 California drug firms working on treatments for cancer, the nation's second-leading killer, according to a biannual survey by Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization.

The local efforts:

* Peregrine Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Tustin biopharmaceutical business, is working on Cotara, a drug that irradiates brain and other cancer cells. The company is also developing a treatment for late-stage lymphoma that is about three years away from commercialization.

* Nexell Therapeutics Inc. in Irvine is developing a system that purifies donor stem cells that are transplanted to patients undergoing high-dose chemotherapy. Stem cells restore a patient's immunity.

* ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc., a Costa Mesa drug maker, is in the early stages of developing Tocladesine, a compound that treats colon cancer.

Nationally, 402 medicines are either in clinical trials or awaiting approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, up from 215 in 1996, Pharmaceutical Research said. About one in five drugs in clinical trials make it to market, experts said.

"Companies are redoubling their efforts because we still haven't found a cure for cancer, and a lot of work needs to be done," said Dr. John Siegfried, senior medical director for the trade group.

The American Cancer Society projects that more than 553,000 Americans will succumb to cancer this year, up slightly from last year. Lung cancer is expected to claim 157,000 lives; colon cancer, 48,000; and breast cancer, 41,000.

*

Marc Ballon covers the biomedical and biotechnology industry for The Times. He can be reached at (714) 966-7439 and at marc.ballon@latimes.com.

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