Nobel laureate James Watson denies telling a reporter that a researcher whose experiments have rid mice of malignant tumors "is going to cure cancer in two years."

Watson, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, was quoted as having made that prediction in a front-page story in Sunday's New York Times about research by Dr. Judah Folkman. The Times said it stood by its story.Watson, in a letter to the editor published in Thursday's Times, called the experiments "the most exciting cancer research of my lifetime." But he also cautioned that "the history of cancer research is littered with promised treatments that raised people's hopes, only for them to be dashed when the treatments were put to the test in humans."

Watson's letter said he told Times science writer Gina Kolata at a dinner party six weeks ago that the drugs, endostatin and angiostatin, "should be in National Cancer Institute trials by the end of this year and that we would know, about one year after that, whether they were effective."

Times spokeswoman Lisa Carparelli said, "We're confident of the story we ran and don't wish to be in a position of quarreling with a respected source and authority. We're glad we were able to let Dr. Watson further explain his view."

Watson was unavailable for comment at his laboratory in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., but an aide, Wendy Goldstein, said he remains cautiously optimistic about the drugs. He wrote the letter "just looking to set the record straight," she said.