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Supporting clinical research, trials and fellowships.

We give grants to New Zealand institutions from the funds we raise. They run clinical research, trials and fellowships with the goal of improving treatment for patients with gut cancers.

Who are our experts and how do we select which trials to fund?

Our Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) undertakes the critical review of clinical research, trials, and fellowships which GCF considers funding. When medical specialists and other health researchers submit funding proposals to GCF, SAC reviews the importance of the question posed in the trial, the design of the trial, and the ability of the trial to yield results that will have a positive impact on cancer treatments and the relationship between the study and GCF's research priorities:

  • improving access for New Zealanders to clinical trials

  • supporting clinicians to combine their clinical work with research projects

  • the development of a dedicated clinical research workforce for upper and lower GI cancers, with a focus on increasing Māori participation

  • supporting research and trials that increase equitable outcomes and access for Māori, and other underserved populations in Aotearoa New Zealand. SAC makes recommendations to the GCF Board of Directors, who have the final vote. They approve a sum for the institution running the research, trial or fellowship based on its costs and benefits.

From there, the Principal Investigator (the doctor running the research or trial) or the Fellow seeks approval from the institution’s health research ethics committee. The doctor’s team sets up the infrastructure to run the research or trial and recruit patients who meet the criteria. They monitor the patients and document, analyse and evaluate the results. Many research projects and trials are performed in collaboration with colleagues in Australia or other countries. Finally, the results are published in medical journals to help guide specialists to make the best treatment decisions. 

For more information on clinical research and trials, download the REVIEW document here.

Clinical Trials

Para Haumanu

Current Trials

Feasibility study of ambulatory Holter monitoring while receiving infusional 5-FU chemotherapy

GCF donors are funding this feasibility study which will recruit 10 patients in Auckland.

5-Fluorouracil (5-FU) is the main chemotherapy drug used for the treatment of several gut cancers. Side effects can lead to early stopping of treatment, even when it is working well to control the cancer. One of the most serious side effects of 5-FU is when it causes heart problems. Heart attacks causing death are fortunately rare, but rates of silent heart attacks are higher. Electrical monitoring of the heart (ECG) is one of the best ways to discover such heart problems.

The development of cardiotoxicity requires permanent discontinuation of 5-FU chemotherapy. There are no PHARMAC funded alternatives for patients who discontinue 5-FU due to cardiotoxicity. Discontinuation of 5-FU is likely to lead to a worse outcomes for these patients.

A recent study of 108 patients using ambulatory Holter monitoring detected results that represent a significant risk for cancer patients receiving 5-FU chemotherapy in Aotearoa New Zealand and worldwide. Understanding which patients may be at increased risk of cardiotoxicity may allow us to identify these individuals early and develop mitigation strategies.

This study aims to determine:

  1. whether the use of continuous ECG monitoring (ambulatory Holter monitoring) in real-life conditions (over two days, while at home receiving infusional 5-FU chemotherapy), can appropriately assess these types of silent heart attacks (ST changes) and

  2. determine the acceptability of this study to both patients and clinicians.

This will provide information for the development of a future larger study that aims to assess if silent heart attacks while receiving 5-FU chemotherapy relate to chemotherapy breakdown products (fluoro-beta-alanine, FBAL) and kidney function, and may allow early identification and management to occur to minimise risk.


PALEO is a Phase II clinical trial of chemoradioimmunotherapy for the ALleviation of oEsOphageal cancer complications. Gut Cancer Foundation supporters are funding access to the trial for 6 patients.

Cancer of the oesophagus is often first detected due to swallowing problems. Unfortunately, for many people diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, the cancer has already spread and is incurable. In this scenario, one of the key aims of treatment is to improve swallowing function with the aim of restoring the patient to eating normally. Therapy also aims to provide cancer control for the longest duration possible while maintaining quality of life.

The PALEO clinical trial uses two courses of radiotherapy given at different times. The first is directed to the oesophageal cancer to relieve the swallowing obstruction. To improve the radiotherapy effect, low dose chemotherapy and immunotherapy (a drug to induce immune system attack of the cancer) are given at the same time. The second course of radiotherapy is focused to an area of cancer spread elsewhere in the body to better help the patient’s immune system recognise and attack the cancer. The immunotherapy drug then continues for up to 2 years to continue the cancer control. This combination of treatments is new and is being tested for its effectiveness.

The immunotherapy drug used in this trial is nor currently funded by PHARMAC for oesophageal cancer patients in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Gut Cancer Foundation supporters have also supported this trial by funding the shipment of the trial treatment from Australia to New Zealand.

Assessing the clinical effectiveness of the “Stomaguard” in managing the symptoms of parastomal hernias

Parastomal hernias are common complications following bowel cancer surgery with the formation of a stoma. These occur when abdominal contents protrude through the abdominal wall at the stoma site. Hernia symptoms can include pain, bulging, leakage, skin irritation, difficulty fitting the stoma, and occasionally life-threatening complications. The main treatment is surgical repair – but unfortunately, the rate of hernia recurrence is high.

Stoma guards and supportive devices can provide support to the abdominal wall around the stoma site, reducing symptoms associated with hernias, and possibly the need for surgery.

The aim of this project is to 3D print a tailored stomal guard to improve quality of life, reduce pain, and the risk of surgical intervention. By focusing on managing parastomal hernias, and subsequently reducing the need for surgical interventions with a customized parastomal hernia halt, this study will directly contribute to reducing symptoms, improving the quality of life for patients, may reduce the demand for surgery (which has a high recurrence rate) and will contribute to a more efficient allocation of healthcare resources.

Feasibility study of EUS-PCA in IPMN pancreatic cysts - In Development

GCF donors are funding access to the IPMN clinical trial for 20 patients across 2 sites in the Waikato and Waitematā regions.

Every year, hundreds of New Zealanders are diagnosed with a form of pancreatic cyst known as intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMN). The likelihood that these cysts develop into pancreatic cancer varies, but for those at most risk, there is a 25% chance that their IPMN's will develop into pancreatic cancer within 10 years.

For this high-risk group, the recommended treatment is radical surgery, which carries with it significant risks. Because of other health issues and potential comorbidities, many patients diagnosed with high risk IPMN's have an increased chance of complications from surgery. This particularly vulnerable group are therefore left with no good options when it comes to treating their IPMN’s and reducing their risk of developing pancreatic cancer. In addition, because of the risks involved, some patients may choose not to go down that route.

An alternative treatment that has been developed in the US is endoscopic ultrasound-guided pancreatic cyst ablation (EUS-PCA). This method injects chemotherapy treatment directly into the cyst, using an endoscope inserted into the stomach. So far it has a high success rate in safely shrinking the IPMN cysts, with most disappearing completely and not recurring during several years of follow-up.

Thanks to Gut Cancer Foundation supporters, clinicians and researchers across the Waikato and Waitemata regions have come together to investigate the feasibility, efficacy and safety of implementing this new treatment option across two New Zealand centres.

This multi-disciplinary team of oncologists, gastroenterologists, surgeons and molecular medicine researchers are trialling the use of a chemotherapy combination (gemcitabine and paclitaxel) as part of the EUS-PCA method. Trials in other countries have indicated this new treatment option both increases the efficacy of the intervention (i.e. improves the response to the treatment vs existing options), and crucially does so whilst significantly reducing the risk of complications.

If proved successful, this treatment would reduce the number of patients requiring surgery, treat patients who are not fit for surgery and reduce the incidence of invasive pancreatic adenocarcinoma. This is also likely to reduce inequity for Māori, who are at higher risk of being ineligible for surgery for these IPMN cysts.

Click here for a detailed overview of the study and its aims


GCF donors are funding access to the MASTERPLAN clinical trial for 8 patients across 2 sites in Christchurch and the Wellington regions.

This randomised phase II trial will determine if the addition of SBRT to chemotherapy improves locoregional control for patients with high-risk operable, borderline resectable (BRPC) and locally advanced pancreatic cancer (LAPC).

Surgical removal of tumour is the only potentially curative treatment for pancratic cancer, but tumour recurs at the original site in approximately half of all patients. Any treatments that improve the rate of surgical removal of the tumour are likely to increase overall survival. In patients who cannot be cured, tumour growth in the pancreas often shortens life span and worsens quality of life by invading surrounding tissues. Treatments that control the growth in the pancreas may lengthen life and improve quality of life.

In patients with tumours that are too advanced for surgery (“locally advanced”) and those for whom surgery has a low chance of removing all tumour (“high risk” and “borderline resectable”), the standard of care is initial chemotherapy followed by reassessment of suitability for surgery.

SBRT enables the dose of radiotherapy to be increased by more precisely targeting the tumour, while avoiding surrounding tissue. This technique has been shown to improve survival rates and to reduce side effects in the treatment of other cancers, such as lung cancer, in comparison to standard external beam radiotherapy. It is hypothesised that SBRT may increase pancreatic tumour cell death, reduce the likelihood of cancer being left behind after surgery and therefore reduce the likelihood of tumour recurrence at the original site. In patients for who surgery is not possible, SBRT may delay tumour growth in the pancreas, resulting in longer survival and improved quality of life.

In Follow up


GCF donors are funding access to the ASCEND clinical trial for 19 patients across 3 sites in the Auckland, Waikato, and Dunedin regions.

ASCEND is a randomised, double blinded phase II study of gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel with CEND-1 or placebo in patients with untreated metastatic pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma.

Patients with advanced pancreas cancer have poor survival. Limited penetration of anti-cancer drugs to cancer cells is one of the reasons that pancreas cancer is less sensitive to chemotherapy. CEND-1 is a new type of drug that helps small molecules, like chemotherapy drugs, get from the blood stream into cancer cells, without increasing the amount of chemotherapy drug that is taken up by normal cells.

Even with access to current treatments, there is a huge room for improvement given that the average survival for this group of patients is less than 12 months. To improve outcomes for patients with newly diagnosed advanced pancreas cancer, the Australian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group (AGITG) has developed and sponsored the ASCEND clinical trial.

The ASCEND clinical trial is investigating whether adding CEND-1 to chemotherapy will improve survival of people with pancreatic cancer by increasing the efficacy of the chemotherapy.

For participating patients in New Zealand, this trial will have significant dual benefits. Thanks to the support of CEND Therapeutics, every one of the 19 New Zealanders who access this trial will be given the international standard of care treatment gemcitabine and nab-paclitaxel, a treatment option that is not funded in New Zealand. In addition, two-thirds of the patients will receive CEND-1 as part of the investigation into whether this new agent improves the delivery of their chemotherapy treatment.

The ASCEND trial will begin recruiting New Zealand patients in 2023 and anyone interested in finding out more should discuss it with their specialist.


TOPGEAR is an international, multi-centre, randomised, phase II/phase III clinical trial which is investigating whether the addition of radiation treatment to chemotherapy before a patient’s surgery can improve outcomes such as pathological complete response rates and overall survival.  More than 70 centres across New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Europe are participating in this trial.   All participants received chemotherapy and will be randomly allocated to one of two treatment groups:

  • preoperative chemotherapy followed by postoperative chemotherapy

  • OR preoperative chemo-radiation followed by postoperative chemotherapy

Participants were seen frequently while on treatment, at least 3 weekly while on chemotherapy or chemo-radiation.  Follow up will be every 3 months during year 1 and then every 6 months until 5 years.

Phase II

Phase II of the trial enrolled 120 participants before its completion. In early 2015, a planned analysis of data from these 120 participants was performed.  This analysis confirmed that the trial treatment posed no concerns from a safety perspective and the study should continue. The interim phase II feasibility and safety results were published in the Annals of Surgical Oncology, these results showed that pre-operative chemoradiation is safe and feasible and does not adversely affect surgical morbidity. Click here to view the published article in its entirety.

Phase III

TOPGEAR has completed recruitment to the phase III component with a total of 574 patients taking part in total.  Auckland City Hospital, Christchurch Hospital, Dunedin Hospital and Waikato Hospital have taken part in and contributed to the TOPGEAR study in the phase II component. Thanks to the Gut Cancer Foundation supporters, Auckland City Hospital continued to recruit patients to the phase III part of the TOPGEAR trial and enrolled another 4 participants onto the study.  This continuation for phase III of the study in Auckland is generously supported by funding from the Gut Cancer Foundation (GCF) and a Research Project Grant from Genesis Oncology Trust, awarded to the Principal Investigator for Auckland City Hospital, Dr Maria Pearse.

With the trial recruitment now completed, instigators at the Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials Group have received additional funding to move into the findings stage. Clinicians will be able to hear an update on TOPGEAR when the trial is presented at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) Annual Meeting in October.

Click here for a full overview of the study


GCF has funded Dr Amanda Ashley and her team at Auckland Hospital,three patients to go onto this valuable trial to the value of $23,741.

ACTICCA-1 is a randomised, controlled, two stage, multicentre Phase III trial comparing gemcitabine+ cisplatin with standard of care (capecitabine) after curative-intent resection of cholangiocarcinoma and muscle-invasive gallbladder carcinoma.

Cholangiocarcinoma is diagnosed in approximately 80 people every year in New Zealand. In half of these people, curative-intent treatment with surgery is possible. Following this surgery, however, only 20-30% of people survive 5 years. This long-term survival can be increase by giving chemotherapy after the surgery and the current standard is capecitabine. In this trial, patients received either cisplatin and gemcitabine or capecitabine alone following their surgery. The aim is to find out if giving cisplatin and gemcitabine can improve the outcomes for these patients.

Click here for a full overview of the study

Closed Trials

Circulating Tumour DNA as a Biomarker Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a devastating cancer with a very poor outlook. The only chance of cure is early diagnosis leading to early surgical resection. Unfortunately this is rare, because by the time of diagnosis, the cancer is usually not resectable. Therefore, we need a tool to diagnose this cancer earlier. Cancers are caused by gene mutations in the DNA inside each cancer cell. We can detect the mutated DNA floating in normal blood. Because the normal DNA in blood has very few mutations, the presence of specific mutated DNA can signal the presence of a cancer.

This study aims to test whether this mutated DNA can be detected in the blood of patients with pancreatic cancer. It may therefore become a useful diagnostic test. This might lead to being able to diagnose the cancer earlier while it is still resectable. This may increase cure rates. The Study: Professor Peter Gibbs is one of three investigators leading this translational clinical study coordinated from the Translational Oncology Group at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne. This is a collaborative project across several Australian sites. Auckland has been asked to join as the only New Zealand site. Participation in this study will build an excellent collaborative relationship between Auckland and Melbourne. Patients who are undergoing surgery for pancreatic cancer (Stage 1 or 2) will have a blood test before and after surgery. This is the only requirement for patients. They would otherwise have standard workup and clinical follow up. The blood samples will be sent to Melbourne for analysis. DNA and RNA will be extracted from the blood, and searched for mutations. Presence or absence of mutations before and after surgery will then be compared to relapse and survival. Key researcher in Auckland is Dr Ben Lawrence and the Department of Oncology.

This international trial with 119 participants, concluded that ctDNA has promise for a screening test for pancreas cancer, and for predicting relapse in people with pancreas cancer. It is now closed and outcomes were presented at ASCO (American Society Conference of Onclologists).

SCOT (Short Course Oncology Therapy) Trial

This trial is now closed and results are below.

Patients who are diagnosed with early bowel cancer may be advised to have chemotherapy treatment for 24 weeks after surgery. This treatment increases their chances of surviving the cancer. Unfortunately, all chemotherapy treatments have side effects and these side effects often get worse as the treatment goes on. Previous studies have demonstrated that a shorter course of chemotherapy may be less toxic without being less effective. The aim of the SCOT trial is to definitively answer the question of whether 12 weeks of chemotherapy is as effective in reducing cancer recurrence as the current standard practice of 24 weeks of the same chemotherapy drugs. It is hoped that the 12 week chemotherapy treatment will not only show less side effects than the 24 week treatment, and would be much more convenient, but also would be no less effective. New Zealand patients joined others from around the world, and were randomly assigned to have their treatment for 12 or 24 weeks. Results have been released and show side effects, such as nerve damage, were less for those patients receiving 12 weeks of chemotherapy compared to those receiving 24 weeks. Despite the fact the international study was underpowered, the data suggested that a shorter duration leads to similar survival outcomes with better quality of life and thus might represent a new standard of care.

A La CaRT (Australasian Laparoscopic Cancer of the Rectum Trial)

GCF was pleased to be able to support New Zealand participation in the Australasian Laparoscopic Cancer of the Rectum Trial (ALaCaRT), which compared laparoscopic assisted (or keyhole surgery) with conventional open surgery for the treatment of rectal cancer. The study enrolled 475 patients from Australia and New Zealand and recently reported the preliminary findings based on an assessment of the adequacy or completeness of removal of the cancer.. Patients were randomly allocated to either laparoscopic or open surgery with the aim of finding out whether or not laparoscopic surgery was as effective as open surgery at removing the cancer. They found that rates of complete tumour removal, as assessed by pathological examination of the removed specimen, were excellent overall, but lower after laparoscopic than open surgery. The study therefore was not able to prove that laparoscopic surgery was as good as open surgery at obtaining complete tumour removal.

At first impression this may seem like a disappointing result, but there several important messages that we can take from the ALaCaRT trial. The first is that the quality of surgery overall, including the laparoscopic group, was found to be excellent by international standards and this is a common feature of well designed clinical trials; participants tend to receive a very high standard of care. The second message is the importance of clinical trials in determining the role of new treatments, whether these are new drugs or new ways of performing operations. Patients in the ALaCaRT study will continue to be followed up to determine rates of cancer recurrence and long term survival.

Australasian GI Cancer Trials Group (AGITG)

Current trials of interest only open in Australia.
The MONARCC trial has now opened to recruitment - this trial looks at the best treatments for elderly patients with colorectal cancer. These patients often cannot tolerate standard chemotherapy treatments.
The SPAR trial investigating rectal cancer has also opened and recruited its first patient. The trial is researching the potential of statin drugs, usually used for cholesterol, for increasing the effectiveness of chemotherapy. The LIBERATE study has opened, which is studying the use of blood tests to detect the presence of tumours earlier than current screening methods.
For more information on AGITG trials and research go to www.gicancer.org.au

Research & Fellowship

Rangahau & Hoa Tūranga

Current GCF Supported Research

Dr Nuala Helsby

THYmine2 - An observational study to assess the ability of the thymine loading test to prospectively categorise patients with gastrointestinal or breast cancer who cannot tolerate fluoropyrimidine treatment

THYmine 2 - In Analysis Stage

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.

Dr Edmond Ang

Does the Gastric Acid Altering Effects of Proton Pump Inhibitors Effect Capecitabine Pharmacokinetics? (APEC Study)

APEC Study - In Recruitment

Capecitabine is a tablet form of chemotherapy commonly used to treat a variety of cancers affecting the gut and breast. Many patients who are on capecitabine are also on proton pump inhibitors (PPI) (examples include omeprazole/losec and pantoprazole/panzop-relief) for treatment of reflux and indigestion.

Recently, concerns have been raised that people who use PPIs while on capecitabine have poorer outcomes compared to those who were not on PPIs. One possible explanation for this observation is that reduced acidity in the stomach caused by PPIs may alter how the capecitabine tablet is absorbed into the body. At present, we do not know if this is true and there are no good-quality studies that can clarify this important question.

APEC is a simple study that could test the potential impact of pantoprazole (a common PPI prescribed in New Zealand) on capecitabine absorption among patients undergoing capecitabine treatment for gut and breast cancer. Capecitabine and PPI usage is particularly high in New Zealand, making this study both urgent and relevant.

This study seeks to answer a concern around day to day oncology practice that may have significant implications for thousands of patients with gut cancers across New Zealand and around the world. In the short term, this study will contribute to a pool of scientific evidence that would either support or refute the concerns raised about the effects of PPI on the pharmacokinetics of capecitabine. This may also provide direction for future research into the question. In the long term, this study, alongside other related studies, will hopefully provide definitive answers on whether to permit or discourage the concurrent use of proton pump inhibitors and capecitabine.

Click here for a detailed overview of the APEC Study

GCF is grateful to the Estate of Ernest Davis & The Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Trust proudly managed by Perpetual Guardian, for their support of this research.

Dr Cositha Santhakumar

The role of the tumour microenvironment and its implication as a therapeutic target in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)

HCC Microenvironment - In Analysis Stage

Every year over 360 New Zealander’s are diagnosed with liver cancer, with significantly higher incidences reported in Maori, Pasifika 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 Estate of Ernest Davis & The Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Trust proudly managed by Perpetual Guardian, for their support of this research.

Past GCF Supported Research

Dr Janet Rhodes - Recipient of the Gut Cancer Foundation GI Fellowship

Refining multiplex immunohistochemistry to quantify in situ immune infiltrate: improving survival of colorectal cancer patients

Colorectal Cancer Immunoscoring

Traditionally, diagnosing a stage 2 and 3 colorectal cancer has not provided an accurate prognosis and an appropriate level of treatment. As such, researchers have sought to develop a tool that more accurately predicts prognosis for this group of patients.

Immunoscoring is a system designed to measure the extent to which a few parts of the patient’s immune system has affected (infiltrated) colorectal cancer tumours. It identifies two cell markers which could play a role as more accurate predictors of a patient’s susceptibility to tumour recurrence and therefore a more accurate predictor of their potential outcome.

Early evidence suggested confirms that immunoscoring stage II and III colorectal cancer patients could be used to provide more accurate prognosis and therefore give patients more tailored treatments and hopefully improve survival rates.

Further research in NZ has taken these findings and confirmed in a very small cohort that immunoscoring was able to predict whether or not tumours would recur in patients with stage II colorectal cancer – confirming that proactive use of immunoscoring has the potential for far more accurate prognosis and tailored treatment plans.

But, this research was only conducted on a small number of tumour samples. Significant research was required to establish whether immunoscoring is an effective prognosis tool using a much larger selection of tumour samples. This work needs to be established before immunoscoring can be used as standard practice.

However, the existing techniques for immunoscoring were extremely expensive, and therefore inaccessible to researchers and clinicians in NZ. Other tentative methods were very labour intensive and not easily translated into practical diagnostic settings. As such, new more efficient immunoscoring techniques needed to be developed to make this additional research possible and help it translate into a clinical setting if the research provides positive outcomes.

To address these issues, Dr Rhodes designed her PhD to:

  • establish the techniques necessary to enable immunoscoring of a much larger set of patients and ensure the technique is translatable into a diagnostic setting

  • establish whether this refined immunoscore technique does in fact add value to determining the prognosis of NZ colorectal cancer patients

  • Identify additional characteristics of the immune response (cell markers) to the tumour that could add to the efficacy of immunoscore as a diagnostic tool


To date, Dr Rhodes' research has successfully managed to:

  • develop a new, quicker, more efficient, cheaper immunoscoring technique that allows her to test and validate the technique against tumour specimens from over 500 NZ colorectal cancer patients

  • identify additional immune responses and cell markers that could help improve the accuracy of the technique

  • develop a system that, with some refinement, may have an immediate impact on the treatment of New Zealanders with stage II and III colorectal cancer by providing a more accurate prognosis and allowing for a more personalised treatment plan

  • developed a system that could have immediate benefits to Kiwis whilst simultaneously contributing to a much wider global effort to improve the accuracy of the Immunoscore as a prognostic tool

  • GCF is grateful to the Hugh Green Foundation for their support of this research.

Professor Peter Shepherd and Dr Khanh Tran

A pre-clinical study to investigate the potential for a novel drug combination for treating colorectal cancer

Novel drug combination for treating colorectal cancer

Professor Peter Shepherd and his team at the University of Auckland, were awarded $50,000 for a second 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 Estate of Ernest Hyam Davis & The Ted and Mollie Carr Endowment Trust proudly managed by Perpetual Guardian.


The results of this vital research indicate that the combination of drugs trialled in laboratory conditions are more successful than existing treatments, in treating the 10% of colon cancers that are driven by mutations in the BRAF gene.

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.

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

Dr Roslyn Kemp, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Otago.

Colorectal Cancer and Immune Responses 

In colorectal cancer, a strong immune response within the tumour is associated with a good outcome for patients. We will validate this finding, for the first time, in New Zealand patients. We will also use a new technology to characterize these immune cells to determine their mechanisms of action.

GCF awarded Dr Kemp and her team $50,000 for this valuable Clinical Research. Funding for this research has been completed and we await outcomes as the research is completed and published.

Dr Rachel Purcell, University of Otago.

"New Zealand has one of the highest rates of colorectal cancer (CRC) in the world. We aim to classify CRC using gene-expression profiles in order to improve treatment strategies and outcomes. We will also study CRC microbiomes to determine the role of bacteria in the development of CRC subtypes." 

FibRect Trial - assessing dietary fibre to reduce GI symptoms in rectal cancer patients receiving radiotherapy 

GCF has awarded Dr Purcell and her team $50,000 for this valuable Clinical Research with the support of the Hugh Green Foundation. Funding for this research has been completed.

Outcomes include the following

CMS1 is associated with right-sided tumours in females, node negative and poorly differentiated tumours. CMS2 tumours were predominantly left-sided and in male patients. CMS4 were more often found in younger patients, those with rectal tumours and higher stage. Interestingly, we did not find any prognostic benefit of stratifying tumours using CMS, in contrast to the published literature on CMS. In our treatment-naïve cohort, TNM remains the most useful method of tumour stratification. A manuscript has been prepared detailing these findings and submitted for publication.