In a possible setback for scientists attempting to make drugs out of a substance found in red wine, GlaxoSmithKline halted a clinical trial of one drug in cancer patients due to safety concerns, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Glaxo acquired the drug in 2008 when it paid $720 million for Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company in Cambridge, Mass. The drug, known as SRT501, contains a reformulated version of resveratrol, a substance found in low quantities in red wine.
Glaxo and Sirtris have been testing the drug and others in several diseases, including diabetes and cancer, in the belief that they may provide health benefits by activating enzymes in the body called sirtuins.
The suspension of the trial comes amid recent debate in scientific journals about how well the experimental drugs work.
Glaxo said Tuesday it halted a small trial in multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow, because some patients developed a complication called cast nephropathy, a condition that can cause kidney failure.
George Vlasuk, chief executive of Sirtris, said in a phone interview that the complication is common in multiple myeloma patients and "may or may not be related to" the drug. Glaxo halted the trial "out of an abundance of caution" while it studies the data further, he said.