Over the coming year, one in three New Zealanders will be affected by cancer. To help combat this problem, this week the Cancer Society of New Zealand will be promoting Daffodil Day, aimed at increasing awareness of cancer in New Zealand, and raising funds for vital scientific research into the causes and treatment of all types of cancer.
Raising funds for cancer will help with the ongoing research conducted at Centres such as The Auckland Cancer Society Research Centre (ACSRC), who have an international reputation as a leading anti-cancer drug development laboratory. To date ACSRC have brought 8 new drugs to clinical trial in collaboration with a number of partners, with work published in more than 1200 scientific papers.
Here are some examples of some of the major research projects currently underway in New Zealand:
Shutting down blood vessels in tumours:
The ACSRC is a world leader in drugs that selectively shut down blood flow in tumours, starving them of oxygen and nutrients. The drug DMXAA (ASA404) has just begun world-wide Phase III clinical trials (with Novartis), following earlier favourable studies in patients with lung and prostate cancer. Research into the detailed mechanism of action of the drug, and on the effects of combinations with other drugs is ongoing. This drug is currently being trialed in lung and prostate cancer, but is potentially extendable to a wide variety of solid tumours.
Selectively killing oxygen-starved cells in tumours:
This is a new concept in therapy, targeting physiological differences between cancer cells and normal cells. Following the beginning of Phase II clinical trials (with Proacta) of the drug PR-104, ACSRC are developing a second, different, class of such drugs towards clinical evaluation. This drug is currently being trialed in lung cancer, but is potentially extendable to a wide variety of solid tumours.
Restoring abnormal signaling in cancer cells:
The enzyme PI3 kinase controls a key signaling network in cells, and its over expression is a factor in many cancers. The ACSRC are developing two new classes of drug designed to shut off PI3 kinase, and restore normal signaling in cancer cells. This is likely to be of most use in prostate, melanoma and colon cancer, but is potentially extendable to a wide variety of solid tumours.
Protection from transplant rejection:
Transplant therapies (e.g. bone marrow transplants in leukaemia) are susceptible to rejection. The ACSRC are developing two new classes of drugs designed to prevent rejection by selectively inhibiting major rejection pathways. These are likely to be of most use in leukaemias and lymphomas.
Daffodil Day is on Friday 28 August 2008.
To talk a scientist about cancer, please contact the Science Media Centre on tel: 04 499 5476 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, see our Science Byte on cancer on this website.