Otago researchers identify drugs to beat hereditary cancers

REVOLUTIONARY: Otago University Professor Parry Guilford says researchers have identified drugs that could successfully ...
Alan Dove

REVOLUTIONARY: Otago University Professor Parry Guilford says researchers have identified drugs that could successfully treat or even prevent deadly familial stomach and lobular breast cancers

Two decades after a gene causing deadly familial cancer first emerged, University of Otago researchers have found a potential cure.

Led by Professor Parry Guilford, cancer genetics researchers have identified drugs that could successfully treat or even prevent deadly familial stomach and lobular breast cancers by targeting specific genetic mutations. 

The treatment is revolutionary in its approach. Rather than trying to combat cancer strengths, the drugs prey on its weaknesses, Guilford said. 

* READ MORE: Healthy man has stomach removed

"Cancer cells acquire a mutation in their DNA which help them grow and invade neighbouring tissues," he said.

"These mutations can create a weakness in those cells, like an Achilles heel. If you can find that, you can target it. That's what we've done here. We've found the Achilles heel in this type of cancer."

The aim was to prevent cancer from developing in high risk families, such as that of Kimi Hauora Trust Manager Maybelle McLeod, who originally contacted the University and Guilford in 1994 to seek help in discovering the cause of the disease ravaging her Bay of Plenty family. 

Despite folklore that a curse had been placed on the family, they realised all the evidence - including very early onset of the condition - indicated the cancer was being caused by a genetic condition.

Guilford estimated another 350 families worldwide were in the same category.

Identified high risk families have about a 70 per cent chance of getting stomach cancer, and the women have about a 40 per cent chance of getting breast cancer, he said.

Ad Feedback

Currently the only treatment for those carrying the gene was to surgically remove the stomach or breast tissue as a preventative measure.

"The genetic mutation we're targeting is also found in sporadic forms of those cancers as well. So if we get the drugs working very effectively we could also apply them to advanced sporadic cancers, too," Guilford said.

The drugs have shown to be effective, and the next step was to ensure their safety.

"We've got another three years of work in the lab to select the best drug from this class, the one which is the safest and most efficient, and then we can take it to clinical trials."

Guilford anticipated the drug would be taken every two to four years and would kill off the "very, very early stages" of cancer.

McLeod said the findings were "very exciting". 

"The only choice at the moment for those of us at genetic risk is to undergo drastic surgery, and having your stomach removed is a hard thing to bite.

"This latest research holds out a new hope for a gentler way to save the lives of our affected whanau members."

The researchers' finding appeared in the US journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Auckland

Lions fans roaring into town

Lions fans arrive in Picton on their way through the country in 2005.

Cities get ready for the dollars and excitement of another Lions Tour - and there may be more rugby-mad Brits than expected.

Kent's battle for his kids

Seth, left, Kent and Shawna Allen from Pukekohe.

Pukekohe solo dad given just a year to live still has plenty of fight, even with his life on the line.

Funky way for mums to get fit video

Breakdancers Kim Seifu, left, and Jody Stewart started MotherFunk baby wearing dance class in Onehunga last month.

It's called MotherFunk and it involves baby-wearing mums getting their groove on.

Craig accused of doctoring texts

Former Conservative Party press secretary Rachel MacGregor.

 Rachel MacGregor has accused Colin Craig of doctoring text messages sent between the pair.

Wellington

Illegal aussie now in captivity

The native plants and animals of Lake Waiwiri are now safe, after a fugitive Australian Water Dragon (Physignathus ...

Fugitive Aussie water dragon captured after jaunt around Horowhenua.

Whistleblower probe

Former MoT boss Martin Matthews says he acted "swiftly and decisively" to investigate Joanne Harrison.

SSC to investigate claims Transport Ministry whistleblowers lost jobs for speaking out on fraudster.

Neighbours to rescue

Greg Harris and his partner Rowena Harris alerted their neighbours to a house fire by banging on the gate at 6am.

Greg Harris thought flames were initially lightning - but it turned out to be much worse.

Killed on way to party

Ross Hallgarth of Hastings died after swerving his car to avoid an oncoming car in the wrong lane.

Ross Hallgarth died after swerving his car to avoid an oncoming car in the wrong lane.

Canterbury

Bucket list trip to Paris sought video

22052017 News Photo Stacy Squires/Fairfax NZ
Christchurch grandmother Michelle Calderwood has been given one year to ...

"I know I'm going to die, but I can still do things and make a difference," Christchurch grandmother says.

Search for hunter ends

Swedish man Hans Christian Tornmarck has not been since May 12. On Wednesday, May 24, the search for the 27-year-old was ...

In an "extreme, raw and unforgiving environment", searchers found only a sleeping bag and tent.

Cathedral Sq site for sale

05092011 News Photo: John Kirk-Anderson/The Press


Red Zone tour, ANZ building, Cathedral Square.

Family will sell its prominent Cathedral Square property for the first time in nearly 100 years after abandoning rebuild attempts.

Horse struck and killed

A motorist struck and killed a horse that ran in front of her crash in Christchurch on Wednesday morning (file photo).

A horse is dead and a car stuck in a ditch after two collisions just minutes apart in Christchurch.

Waikato

Early house blaze 

The fire engulfed the two storey house measuring 20 by eight metres in rural Pirongia.

An elderly resident has lost everything in a blaze that sent his home up in a "ball of fire".

Manhunt blocks SH1 

Police have placed a cordon on State Highway 30, near Whakamaru, during a manhunt on Wednesday.

Police warn motorists to avoid hitchhikers as they search for a man after a firearms incident.

ED is overloaded

Waikato Hospital is in overload and above capacity.

Unless it's a "real emergency", people are urged to see their GPs or ring the Healthline first.

Myrtle rust spread continues

Myrtle rust is a fungal disease that is found on plants such as pohutukawa and manuka. As of Tuesday, May 23, it had ...

The spread of Myrtle rust is continuing by the day, with the disease found in the Waikato.

Taranaki

What happens when artists fight 

Grafitti Artist Cameron "odjobs" Shennan will take on Rapper Todd 'Louie Knuxx" Williams at  TSB Stadium on Friday.

Pre-fight banter ahead of this corporate boxing match includes a rap and cartoon.

To tip or not to tip? video

Brittany Baker (left) at her former job in a sports bar in America.

OPINION: I'm an American in NZ and tipping kept a roof over my head. But my feelings about it are conflicted.

Father facing death

Shane Petersen said he has to stay strong for his children CJ, 6, and Chloe, 8.

Dad-of-two Shane Petersen has been told that his days are numbered - but he is refusing to just give up.

Anti-bullying tactics

Kerehoma addresses bullying in his classes, and helps the children find ways to make themselves safe.

Clayton Kerehoma works on anti-bullying tactics with his Brazilian Jui Jitsu class.

Manawatu

Museum without walls

Andy Lowe, from Te Manawa, accepts the inaugural Arts Access Museum Award.

Te Manawa's Andy Lowe wins prestigious award recognising the museum's diversity.

Typhoid spreads

Typhoid has spread to Palmerston North.

A teenager in Palmerston North Hospital is confirmed as being infected.

Petrol to return to Pongaroa

Pongaroa will soon have its own petrol pumps.

The tiny town of Pongaroa has bucked the trend by fundraising for its own petrol station.

What does the DNA prove?

The Palmerston North courthouse.

Crown says evidence shows accused took part in assault. The defence disagrees.

Nelson

Thieves ransack Mapua bakery

A police officer tapes off the front of the Mapua Village Bakery after the robbery early on Wednesday.

Three men smashed their way into the Mapua Village Bakery and threatened a worker.

Our isolated airport

An image of the new flight tower and terminal at Nelson Airport.

Nelson is NZ's fastest growing regional airport and will soon have a new $32m terminal - but zero public transport links.

Food cart forced to close

The Wheely Wild Food Cart on the side of State Highway 63 in November.

Business was ticking along; then came the quake, the customers and the complaint.

New goals after World Cup snub

Tasman United players Tinashe Marowa and Ermal Hajdari celebrate after Marowa scored a goal during the team's 3-2 defeat ...

Tinashe Marowa is keen to impress at the Phoenix after U-20 World Cup omission.

Marlborough

A new world for libraries

Children's library assistant Emily Fredrickson applies radio tags to books ahead of the new self-service system.

Self-service kiosks like those in supermarkets will soon appear in the libraries of Marlborough.

Purpose-built priority

St Andrews Property Group is developing the former Country Life Motel, south of Blenheim, to house more than 400 ...

Vineyard contractors encouraged out of rental market as Blenheim faces housing shortage.

Foodbank calls for funding

Marlborough Community Foodbank volunteers Tony Morrison, left, and Graeme Duncan are loading up the van to deliver food ...

People are great at donating food, but it's funding for bills that are hard to find.

Chart: Young and old in Marlborough

25042016 News Photo - Derek Flynn/Fairfax NZ.
Anzac Day Service from Seymour Square, Blenheim.

Which age group dominates in the region? Well, the young and the restless have already left.

South Canterbury

New venture for empty site

Bob Mason and business partner Ross Rathgen inside the old Lone Star premises, soon to become the Bullock Restaurant and Bar.

A new restaurant and bar will open in the former Lone Star premises in Timaru. 

Bus survey released

Residents are urged to give their views on Timaru's bus service.

Could public buses soon become a feature of Timaru's main street? A new transport survey poses the question.

Violence before death

The violence surrounding the death of Ashburton man Arran Gairns has been described in the High Court at Timaru.

Jury hears of yelling, splashing and violence on night before man found dead in ditch.

Waimate web plan approved

Waimate District Council has approved $40,000 to develop a marketing website for the district.

Waimate's council to spend up to $40,000 on new website.

Southland

Brass teacher and pupil perform service for community

The youngest and oldest Balclutha Brass Band members, Alanah Anderson,10, and Bill Cross, 86.

Noteworthy service to community for Balclutha brass teacher and pupil.

Amundsen new deputy

Cr Rebecca Amundsen has been appointed deputy mayor by Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt, after Cr Darren Ludlow resigned ...

Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt has appointed his new deputy mayor.

Who is in the Stags mix?

Marist second five-eighth Matty Johnson is one of the Stags midfield contenders for 2017.

Logan Savory takes a look at who he thinks could be contention for the 2017 Stags squad.

Sea Lions establishing colony on Stewart Island

A juvenile sea lion in Port Pegasus in January 2016.

Southland's plans for aquaculture could be scuppered by sea lions looking for love.

Ad Feedback