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.

Liam Lawson

The race suit worn by Red Bull Junior driver Liam Lawson in the Toyota Racing Series has sold at auction for $4,000 with the proceeds going to the Gut Cancer Foundation.

Lawson, 18, who is currently in Bahrain testing for the upcoming Formula 3 season in Europe, donated his suit at the end of the New Zealand motor racing series.

After loosing a key supporter of his international motor racing campaign to bowel cancer last year, Lawson carried the Gut Cancer Foundation logo on his racing suit and hopes the exposure has helped raise awareness for research into cancers that are diagnosed in 5,100 New Zealanders every year.

“The Gut Cancer Foundation is incredibly grateful to Liam for putting his personal race suit up for auction. His support, coupled with the amazing generosity of the new owner, will help GCF fund research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of gut cancer,” said GCF Executive Officer, Liam Willis.

“This research is vital in our efforts to improve life expectancy, quality of life and survival rates for Kiwi’s with this disease.”

Lawson returned home for the five-round TRS championship after winning the series on debut in 2019, a feat he couldn’t quite match this year after an engine failure and subsequent loss of 31 points saw him finish runner-up after 15 races.

“The awareness raised by Liam and his team makes an invaluable contribution towards our efforts to reduce the number of New Zealanders developing this often overlooked group of cancers,” added Willis.