The Gut Cancer Foundation  has funded Professor Peter Shepherd and his team at Auckland University to study the the effect combining two widely available drugs (BRAF and VEGFR Inhibators) has on certain forms of colorectal (bowel) cancer, when compared with treating with one drug alone.

The team’s research has particularly focused on a form of colorectal cancer driven by mutations in the BRAF gene. This is of particular importance as this group of colorectal cancer patients usually have the worst outcomes with standard therapies.

The results of this vital research indicate that the combination of drugs (trialed in laboratory conditions), are more successful in treating the 10% of colon cancers that are driven by mutations in the BRAF gene, than existing single drug approaches. Professor Shepherd said “These result support previous work funded by the Gut Cancer Foundation and provides solid evidence to support human clinical trials of these two drugs together to be used, specifically in patients whose tumours contain a BRAF mutation. This represents about 10% of all colorectal cancers and is important as people with such tumours have worse clinical outcomes and hence the need for improved treatment.

GCF Executive Officer Liam Willis said “We are excited by the results of Professor Shepherd’s research. We recognise that there are still several steps to find out if these results will translate into better outcomes for patients with these BRAF mutant bowel cancers. However, the drugs used are already licensed for use in people, so adoption would be much quicker than for totally new drugs”.

GCF is grateful to the Ted and Mollie Carr Fund and Estate of Ernest Davis through Perpetual Guardian, for their support of this research.

Click here for a detailed overview of the research project and its findings.

GCF has funded Dr Nuala Helsby and her team at the University of Auckland, a year’s part time salary for a clinical trial manager to support the following research.  THYmine2 is an observational study to assess whether the thymine loading test can prospectively categorise patients who cannot tolerate 5-FU treatment (e.g. FOLFOX, CapeOx, FLOX). This treatment is commonly used in GI and breast cancer treatment. Reactions occur in approximately 10% of patients and can result in life threatening events. Despite extensive research it is still difficult to determine who is at risk of life-threatening toxicity related to 5-FU. This study aims to examine whether the ratio of thymine to its metabolite in urine can discriminate between patients who tolerate 5-FU and those who experience severe 5-FU related toxicity. If successful then it could be a simple and inexpensive way to identify susceptible patients before they start treatment and allow for dose adjustments or alternative treatment. This is partly funded by the David Levene Foundation.

Professor Peter Shepherd, Dr Khanh Tran and their team at the University of Auckland, have been awarded $50,000 for one year to study a form of colorectal cancer which is difficult to treat normally. A drug combination used to treat melonoma will be trialed in the laboratory as a pre-clinical experiment to determine if there is any tumour response using the drugs vemurafenib and axitinib.  This funding is thanks to the Ted and Mollie Carr Fund through Perpetual Guardian.