The Gut Cancer Foundation is delighted to welcome Dr Lorraine Chantrill to the board of trustees. Dr Chantrill is a Senior Staff Specialist Medical Oncologist and Head of Service for Medical Oncology across the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD), and Area Clinical Director of Clinical Trials. Dr Chantrill treats patients with any cancers of the digestive tract as well as gynaecological cancers and lung cancers.

She is a key opinion leader and expert in the field of pancreas cancer. Lorraine completed a PhD by research in the Pancreas Cancer Group at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre in pancreas cancer genomics. Lorraine continues to be an active clinician-researcher trying to bridge the gap between the bench and the bedside.

She has extensive experience managing Oncology Clinical Trials and is the Principal Investigator on several clinical trials in gastrointestinal cancers. Lorraine is a passionate advocate for clinical trials, believing they are not only vital for research but offer hope to participants. Lorraine is keen to help GCF build the number of clinical trials on offer in NZ, to give patients access to some new and emerging therapies.

Lorraine has served on the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG) Upper GI Working party since its inception in 2011 and has chaired the Working Party 2014-2019. She was appointed to the Board of Directors of AGITG in August 2016 and in May 2020 became the first female Chair of the AGITG and GI cancer institute. AGITG create and facilitate clinical trials in cancers of the digestive tract. GCF supporters help fund the opening of New Zealand sites enabling Kiwis to participate in AGITG trials.

The team at GCF would like to thank Dr Chantrill’s predecessor, Professor Tim Price for his dedication and expertise during his 6 years as chair of AGITG and a member of the GCF board. Lorraine’s appointment to the board of the Gut Cancer Foundation continues our long association with the AGITG as she is now the 3rd chair to be appointed to our board. We welcome Dr Chantrill to the GCF family and look forward to working with her.

The Gut Cancer Foundation is delighted to announce the award of $35,000 Dr Cositha Santhakumar for her study into the role of the tumour microenvironment and its implication as a therapeutic target in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).

Every year over 360 New Zealanders are diagnosed with liver cancer, with significantly higher incidences reported in Maori, Pacifica and Asian populations. Unfortunately, outcomes remain poor with just 15% of liver cancer patients expected to survive beyond 5 years.

Hepatocellular carcinoma’s (HCC’s) account for 90% of all primary liver cancers. It is believed that the environment in which HCC’s develop has an effect on the biology of the tumour. The study aims to better understand this environment with novel imaging techniques, and determine the role of targeting various components of this environment with immune directed therapies. Dr Santhakumar aims to identify which patients will benefit most from these therapies resulting in tailored patient care and better outcomes.

Click here for a detailed overview of the research project.

GCF is grateful to the Sir Ernest Davis Estate proudly managed by Perpetual Guardian as sole trustee of his charitable trust, for their support of this research.

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.