5 May 2010
On Wednesday 5 May, the Health Minister Hon Tony Ryall will open the Keith and Faith Taylor Cancer Research Laboratories at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research. The building of these laboratories is a joint venture with Victoria University and the K.I.A. Taylor Charitable Trust and represents a unique long term commitment by these parties to ensure New Zealand has the necessary infrastructure for the development of human vaccines against cancer. The state-of-the-art laboratories have been specifically designed to facilitate the preparation, processing and culture of human tissues for vaccine production and meet the exacting standards required for Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP).
The new facility will significantly enhance the efforts by HRC funded scientists at the Malaghan Institute who are dedicated to the development of immunotherapy as an effective means for treating cancer. This novel approach to cancer therapy exploits the sensitivity and potency of the immune system, which can be directed to seek out and destroy tumour cells through the use of custom-made vaccines. Although still in its infancy, immunotherapy offers one of the most exciting new approaches for treating cancer as it holds the promise of being able to effect a total cure with minimal side-effects and complements existing therapeutic approaches.
Institute Director Prof Graham Le Gros pointedly notes that it has already taken a decade's worth of funding by the HRC, the New Zealand Cancer Society and the Wellington Medical Research Foundation to develop the necessary knowledge, techniques and protocols required for translating this form of immunotherapy into a clinical setting. This has included two previous clinical trials, and a current Phase I trial headed by HRC Clinical Training Fellow Martin Hunn that is assessing the feasibility of using cancer vaccines in combination with temozolomide chemotherapy to treat patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme.
Prof Le Gros indicated that the vision for the new GMP laboratories is that they will be available to support cancer researchers nationwide and enable larger more challenging clinical trial protocols to be undertaken for the treatment of cancers such as melanoma and breast cancer. It also underlines the critical role that private individuals can play through philanthropy in ensuring groundbreaking research translates into improved health outcomes for New Zealanders.