NZ research into low-cost drug looks promising

February 18. 2014

A new research project funded by the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation is showing promising interim results. The research is focused on the development of a low-cost nano-medicine for triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive cancer that particularly affects younger women.

Dr Rhonda Rosengren and her team at Otago University have completed their first six months of study into the efficacy of a new chemotherapeutic agent developed by her team. The drug is a synthetic derivative of curcumin (natural curcumin is best known as a component of the spice turmeric), which researchers have believed for some time has a potential role in fighting cancer. What makes the Otago project unique in the world is a new, delivery mechanism developed by Dr Rosengren and her colleague Dr Khaled Greish. The “nanotechnology” delivery system delivers the drug directly to the tumour, potentially allowing for a safer, more effective and cheaper treatment.

The first six months of the Otago study showed that the new drug reduced the size of Triple Negative Breast Cancer tumours in mice by 60%, compared to control mice. Dr Rosengren says it’s the most exciting project she’s been involved in – if it continues to go well, it may lead to clinical trials in women in a couple of years’ time.

That would be welcome news for Kiwi women – 15-20% of the breast cancers diagnosed in NZ are triple negative breast cancer. In 2012, 450-600 of breast cancers diagnosed would have been TNBC.

Read the NZ Herald report on Rhonda’s study