Media Release

Ground Breaking Cancer Discovery for Value of Medicines Award Winner

20 Aug 2015

Dr Swee Tan, the Founder and Executive Director of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI), has continued the remarkable work that saw him win the Value of Medicines Award in 2014, funded by Medicines New Zealand. Applications for the 2015 Medicines New Zealand Value of Medicines Award are currently open.

Dr Tan says the prize money of $20,000 from the Value of Medicines Award he won last year has helped support the GMRI’s cancer research programme. “We are very grateful for the support we received from Medicines New Zealand.”

“We have recently identified a protein within the major cancer systems that we have studied including melanoma, lymphoma, breast cancer and brain cancer - which we believe is a key factor in regulating cancer stem cells”, Dr Tan said. “We are excited by this discovery and believe that it will form a further step in achieving our aspiration of an effective treatment of cancer involving simple medications”, he added.

Dr Tan’s team has just filed an international patent under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PTC) which simultaneously protects their IP, in 148 countries throughout the world, arising from this ground-breaking discovery that could see cancer managed and treated effectively with known medications in the future.

The research led by Dr Tan is based on the GMRI's concept of cancer stem cells being the driving force behind the development and progression of cancer. This concept is now gaining wider international acceptance.

While this research is still in its early stages, the GMRI team believe that further work will lead eventually to a radically different and effective treatment of cancers replacing the current treatments, which are harsh and often only partially effective.

“This is exactly the kind of exciting and innovative research project that our annual Value of Medicines Award aims to showcase” noted Dr Graeme Jarvis, General Manager at Medicines New Zealand.  “This and other high quality research projects have the potential to really improve and benefit the health of New Zealanders through the use or development of medicines and vaccines.” he added.

Applications for the 2015 Value of Medicines Award close on 27 August 2015.


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