Robert Sanford Rozman, 49, head of the drug metabolism section of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and an authority on drugs to prevent malaria, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Kensington.

A pharmacologist by profession and deputy chief of the institute's pharmacology department, Dr. Rozman had been at Walter Reed since 1966. Among his specialties were the drug metabolism of antimalarial and radio-protective drugs. He also studied the toxicology of drugs and such substances as lead and iron.

Dr. Rozman played a principal role in developing mefloquine, a new drug that can cure types of malaria that are resistant to many other drugs. He also helped develop a new drug that protects normal tissues, but not certain solid tumors, from the deleterious effects of radiation therapy. The National Cancer Institute is evaluating the drug.

He received three awards for his government work.

A native of Washington, Dr. Rozman grew up in Arlington and graduated from Washington and Lee High School. He earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from George Washington University. He was an assistant professor of pharmacology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and School of Nursing until he joined the Walter Reed Institute of Research.

He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, Sigma Xi, an honorary scientific society, the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, the American College of Clinical Pharmacology, the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine, the American Chemical Society and the American Pharmaceutical Association.

In addition, he was a member of the New York Academy of Sciences, the Lepidopterists' Society, the Maryland Entomological Society, the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a founding member of the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics.

Dr. Roxman's survivors include his wife, Phylis Mensh Rozman, and his son, Daniel, both of Kensington, and his mother, Julia Rozman, and a sister, Martha Smith, both of Charlottesville.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society, or the the Montgomery Hospice Society.