The work of Professor Parry Guilford and his team at the University of Otago has received a major funding boost with a $50,000 donation from the Hugo Charitable Trust to support their work on circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) and cancer research.
Professor Guilford, Director of Otago's Centre for Translational Cancer Research, says he is very grateful for the donation which will be used to support ctDNA research aiming to diagnose cancer earlier and improve the treatment of all patients.
Professor Guilford leads a large ctDNA programme which is funded by the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.
Circulating tumour DNA refers to DNA which has been lost from a tumour into the bloodstream. It can be distinguished from normal DNA derived from the healthy body by the presence of mutations in cancer-causing genes.
Professor Guilford says ctDNA can be used in numerous applications in oncology including as a marker of relapse, treatment response, earlier detection, tumour heterogeneity, prognosis, drug sensitivity and drug resistance.
“We are using ctDNA to measure the response of cancer patients to chemotherapy. If the ctDNA levels are falling, the drugs are working, if they are rising, the treatment is futile and should be terminated. ctDNA therefore provides a method to fine tune a person's treatment so that they only receive treatments which are providing benefit.”
In addition, Professor Guilford says his team is working on a device to capture ctDNA released from small tumours with the hope that this will lead to earlier diagnosis.
“A major benefit of this technology is that it offers the potential to diagnose cancer without the need for expensive hospital-based equipment. This provides the potential to more easily diagnose and manage cancer in people living in rural areas or in resource-poor countries such as the Pacific Islands.”
The Chairman of the Hugo Charitable Trust Mark Owens says “the Trust is delighted to support internationally-renowned cancer genetics and biology expert, Professor Parry Guilford”.
“We believe Professor Guilford and his team's work on ctDNA and cancer research will lead to vastly improved care of New Zealand cancer patients.”
Maryanne Green, the eldest daughter of Irish philanthropist and businessman the late Hugh Green, known in Ireland as Hugo, founded the Hugo Charitable Trust in May 2017 to continue Hugh's philanthropic legacy and to give back to the people of New Zealand. Maryanne worked closely at Hugh's side for over 25 years where she developed a deep understanding of Hugh's philanthropic priorities and wishes.
Hugh was a keen supporter of medical research.
"As you would expect from someone who began earning his money in New Zealand by digging cable trenches by hand, Hugh was careful to ensure his money was well-spent,” says Mr Owens.
In keeping with that legacy, Hugo's trustees want to see the Trust's funds well-used to support world-leading research.
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