Chemo by pill trial on six patients

Christopher Jackson.
Christopher Jackson.
A world-first study starting in Dunedin this month may greatly reduce travel times for cancer patients, principal investigator and Dunedin oncologist Christopher Jackson says.

The six patients taking part in the trial will take the drug Oraxol, also known as Paclitaxel, in tablet form, instead of intravenously.

If successful, patients could avoid weekly trips to hospital.

For those in far-flung areas, the potential travel savings were significant.

''Our patients travel from often great distances and the burden of travel is considerable for many,'' Dr Jackson said.

''Until now, we have not been able to give Paclitaxel by mouth because the body doesn't absorb it. This treatment may change that.''

Pharmaceutical company Kinex Pharmaceuticals is also carrying out oral tests for the drug in Korea and the United States, but those studies used different methodology.

''We are testing to ensure that the dose of chemo they are receiving by mouth is equivalent to the dose they receive by drip.

''This is an essential step before the drug can be considered for registration and routine treatment in the clinic,'' Dr Jackson said.

The treatment, if successful, could be available within five years.

Dr Jackson thanked the University of Otago, the Southern District Health Board, and the Dunedin oncology unit for helping to establish the study.

In a statement announcing the trial, Kinex chief medical officer Rudolf Kwan thanked Dr Jackson and Tak Hung, managing director of Dunedin's Zenith Technology, which is partnering Kinex for the trial.

''This is an important component of our global registration strategy and is complementary to our clinical studies conducted by our partner Hanmi Pharmaceuticals in Korea and clinical studies conducted by Kinex Pharmaceuticals in the United States,'' Dr Kwan said.

Dr Hung said Zenith was excited by the possibility it might be part of developing the next generation of oncology drugs.

''We are also glad that New Zealand is taking the lead on developing this exciting treatment, which if successful, will benefit New Zealand patients first,'' Dr Hung said.

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