New Cancer Therapy: Developed in Boston, Licensed in Britainoxford Biomedica to Put P450 Gene to the Test in Clinical Trials

Contact: Joan Schwartz, |

(Boston, Mass.) — A promising new weapon against cancer, developed by scientists at Boston University, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, has begun clinical trials at Oxford BioMedica, a British company specializing in the application of gene-based therapeutics. A recent licensing agreement extended a 1997 agreement giving Oxford BioMedica broad access to the use of the family of cytochrome P450 enzymes for cancer gene therapy.

The P450-based gene therapy approach that is being tested by Oxford BioMedica was developed through the collaborative research efforts of David J. Waxman, professor of cell and molecular biology and professor of medicine at Boston University and Drs. Antonio Chiocca, associate professor of neurosurgery and Xandra Breakefield, professor of neurology at MGH and Harvard Medical School, who are experts in gene transfer technologies. Dr. Waxman is an expert in the pharmacology of cytochrome P450 enzymes and their role in the metabolism of cancer chemotherapeutic drugs. As part of the agreement negotiated by MGH and Boston University’s Community Technology Fund (CTF), BioMedica will pay an upfront fee, milestones, and royalties on sales.

The cytochrome P450 gene CYP2B6 is the therapeutic gene used in MetXia-P450TM, Oxford BioMedica’s first gene therapy product. It is currently undergoing Phase I/II clinical trials to test its effectiveness in breast cancer. This P450 enzyme is naturally expressed in the liver and work carried out in the inventors’ laboratories has shown that the enzyme, when expressed in tumors, can greatly improve the efficacy of cyclophosphamide, a commonly used chemotherapeutic drug. MetXia-P450 TM allows cyclophosphamide to be activated directly at its site of action in the tumor, thereby enhancing its potency as an anti-tumor treatment, was first shown in a paper published in 1994 by Dr. Chiocca and colleagues.

A second Phase I/II clinical trial of MetXia-P450™ in ovarian cancer patients has been approved by the UK Medicines Control Authority and is planned to start shortly.

“This approach has great promise in combating some of the most devastating cancers we face,” said Ashley Stevens, director of the Boston University’s Office of Technology Transfer. “We are thrilled at Oxford BioMedica’s progress in the development of MetXia-P450TM and its implementation in clinical trials.”

Alan Kingsman, chief executive of BioMedica said: “We are delighted to be able to extend and strengthen our existing relationship with these leading US academic institutions and are particularly pleased to welcome them as shareholders in the Company. This is a recognition and endorsement of the progress we have made in the clinical development of MetXia-P450TM since signing the original agreement in October 1997.”

Further information about Prof. Waxman’s research into P450 and cancer, as well as direct links to published results can be found at:

Information about Dr. Chiocca’s research can be found at:

Notes to Editors

One of the world’s premier research universities, Boston University is distinguished by its commitment to excellence in teaching as well as to direct involvement in the economic, social, intellectual, and educational life of the broader community and of society worldwide. It is the fourth-largest independent institution of higher learning in the United States, with an enrolment of nearly 30,000 students and more than 3,000 faculty in its 15 schools and colleges. Boston University’s Community Technology Fund (CTF) provides venture capital and access to the University’s scientific and technical resources for growing businesses. BU, through CTF, was one of the first universities to develop a focused venture capital program. Through its Technology Transfer program it assists University’s faculty in identifying, protecting, and commercializing the University’s intellectual property. CTF is actively engaged in start-up and spin out companies based on Boston University faculty inventions. For further information:

Oxford BioMedica: Established in 1995, the company specializes in the development and application of gene-based therapeutics using advanced gene delivery technologies for the treatment of disease in oncology, viral infection and neurodegenerative disease. Oxford BioMedica plc was floated on the UK Alternative Investment Market of the London Stock Exchange in December 1996.

The Massachusetts General Hospital, established in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the United States, with an annual research budget of almost $250 million and major research centers in AIDS, the neurosciences, cardiovascular research, cancer, cutaneous biology, transplantation biology and photomedicine. In 1994, the MGH joined with Brigham and Women’s Hospital to form Partners HealthCare System, an integrated health care delivery system comprising the two academic medical centers, specialty and community hospitals, a network of physician groups and nonacute and home health services. Website:

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States and is the only center in New England to be a federally-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and Center for AIDS Research.

This release and an accompanying diagram are available on the World Wide Web at: A related release from Oxford Biomedica can be found at