Trust-Funded Study Uncovers Secrets Behind Cancer Drug Resistance
The force behind a breakthrough University of Otago cancer study has been revealed as a long-running Trust that has
amassed and distributed more than $5 million in donations since it was established in 1986. Most recently, the New Zealand Institute for Cancer Research Trust
, which is managed and administered by Perpetual Guardian, contributed funding to the work of leading researchers at the
university, who have made headway in understanding an underlying mechanism that could explain why new cancer therapies
to help treat metastatic melanoma do not always work on patients.
The research findings pave the way for predicting which patients will benefit from certain drugs, by shedding light on
why new immune checkpoint inhibitor therapies – approved by the New Zealand Government for the first time in 2016 to
treat metastatic melanoma – are not effective on some people.
The Trust, set up with the aim of funding cancer research in New Zealand, has become instrumental behind the scenes of
significant research, and has helped the country’s top and emerging researchers and scientists to continue their work in
New Zealand rather than pursuing jobs offshore.
The Trust has a history of supporting the best and brightest in cancer research at the University of Otago. It
originally funded Professor Mike Eccles’s role as Professorial Chair in Cancer Pathology at the Dunedin School of
Medicine, and also provided several years’ support for a post-doctoral fellowship for Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee, an
outstanding early career researcher who is making waves internationally and now holds a prestigious Rutherford Discovery
The research results being achieved by Professor Eccles, Dr Chatterjee and their research colleagues has been described
by the Trust’s managers as “nothing short of phenomenal.”
Brett James, Client Manager at Perpetual Guardian, says, “This body of evidence shows that we are supporting worthy medical research projects. These donations to the Trust
allow valuable funds to reach the most worthy recipients. It is a win for all involved, primarily for the research
community, the field of cancer research in New Zealand and, of course, those being treated for cancer. The trustees of
this Trust, and many others with similar objectives that we manage, can be confident that the money will be properly
distributed and evaluated, and will have a lasting national impact.
“This just demonstrates the stewardship of these types of trusts and how generous and giving New Zealander’s are. Just a
couple of years ago the Trust received an anonymous donation of $1 million dollars. The Trust and Perpetual Guardian
remain committed to supporting the research going forward, there have already been various advancements along the way.”
Professor Eccles focuses on gene expression profiling using human cells and tissue from a number of cancer types,
including melanoma, one of New Zealand’s most prevalent cancers. New Zealand women have the highest skin cancer death
rate in the world.
“Our research is not only contributing towards a better understanding of cancers in New Zealand where we have high
cancer death rates, including melanoma and now also bowel cancer, but in addition we are also working on exciting new
ways of enhancing treatment outcomes that will ultimately benefit New Zealanders”, says Professor Eccles.
In 2005, the Trust contributed significantly to the University of Otago’s Leading Thinkers Initiative. The gift was
matched by the Government under the Partnership for Excellence Programme, creating the Professorial Chair in Cancer
Pathology at Otago’s Dunedin School of Medicine. The Chair provides a dynamic means of ensuring quality and continuous
efforts are focused on the study of cancer.
Professor John Broughton, Chairman of the New Zealand Institute for Cancer Research Trust, says, “The Trust is
absolutely thrilled with the research outcomes that Professor Mike Eccles and his team have achieved which will have
significant health benefits for everyone. We have certainly honoured all those kind people who have made donations,
large and small to the Trust; their support has made it possible for Professor Eccles to undertake cancer research
projects that are recognised world-wide right here in Dunedin. The Trust must to continue to support the research
endeavours of Professor Eccles and his team.”
For further information on the University of Otago’s research findings, click here