BOSTON, Nov. 14--Researchers at the National Cancer Institute
say they are optimistic that a new drug called AL721 will fight
the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) virus without
many of the serious side effects of other drugs.
"AL721 is a promising new candidate for clinical investigation
in the treatment of AIDS and AIDS-related complex," scientists
said in a letter to the editor of the New England Journal of
"But it should be emphasized that results so far are very
preliminary and that much more work will be required to
determine the clinical usefulness of this agent," said the
letter, signed by Drs. Robert Gallo and Prem S. Sarin from the
NCI and researchers from Yale University, the University of
Florida and Matrix Research Laboratories, makers of the drug.
The drug attacks the AIDS virus by breaking down its outer
shell. With its shell not intact, the virus cannot infect
cells. AL721, when mixed in a test tube with human cells and
HTLV-III, the virus that causes AIDS, slows its spread among
cells. Preliminary trials found the drug restored immune system
function in elderly people without adverse side effects.
"AL721 is a drug with a novel mechanism of action compared to
other AIDS drugs currently being studied," Sarin said in a
statement released by the NCI. "The drug appears to be nontoxic
for normal cel ls grown in the lab.
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