New Zealand cancer drugs being put to the test.

29-04-2017 17:58

By: Amy Wiggins -

Dr Francis Hunter says the Auckland team will use new genome editing technology. Photo / Doug Sherring

Dr Francis Hunter says the Auckland team will use new genome editing technology.

Photo / Doug Sherring.

Two groundbreaking drugs developed in Auckland are being used to help scientists treat different types of cancer.

New Zealand scientists will be closely following and analysing the findings of a trial in the United States with a drug developed at the Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre, one of the world's leading anti-cancer laboratories.

Funding has been secured for a phase two trial of a cancer drug called PR-104 at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in the next year. Lab tests will be co-ordinated by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Auckland scientists will work with the Seattle team to see if it is possible to predict whether patients would benefit from the drug.

The study will involve patients with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia which has not responded to traditional treatments or has returned after standard treatment.

The disease is a rare form of leukaemia prevalent in children and young adults.

Research fellow Dr Francis Hunter said the trial involved patients who had "a very grim prognosis and only limited treatment options".

Hunter said the Auckland team would be using new genome editing technology which enabled scientists to make changes to the DNA of cells. This allowed them to make a direct link between specific mutations present in cancers and the response of that cancer to therapy.

Hunter said: "It's very useful to have an early understanding of the way the genetics of an individual cancer might influence how sensitive it is to that drug. It allows the subsequent development, once that drug reaches human clinical trials, to be much more scientifically targeted and more rational.