• Professors Peter Tyler and Richard Furneaux of Ferrier Research Institute at VUW. Photo credit: VUWProfessors Peter Tyler and Richard Furneaux of Ferrier Research Institute at VUW. Photo credit: VUW

VUW research leads to new drug to treat Lymphoma

Japan has become the first country to approve use of a new anti-Lymphoma drug that has been developed after initial research by Victoria University of Wellington researchers.  The new oral drug, called Mundesine®, treats patients with a type of lymphoma called peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL) — a group of aggressive diseases that accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all cases of non-Hodgkin lymphomas.

The active ingredient in the drug was first synthesised by researchers at Victoria University’s Ferrier Research Institute.  Professors Peter Tyler and Richard Furneaux began researching the active ingredient forodesine hydrochloride, after it was conceived by long-time collaborator Professor Vern Schramm from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

The drug has now been approved by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare following 19 clinical trials.

Professor Tyler said: “I’m very proud, we’ve been working on this science for 20 years, and used a rational approach to design this drug. We resolved some complex chemistry and it’s great that, following this approval, the drug is now a step closer to being available.”

He explained: “In some cancers, like lymphoma, T-cells, a type of white blood cell, replicate uncontrollably. This drug inhibits the enzyme PNP (purine nucleoside phosphorylase), causing a metabolic imbalance in the T-cells that triggers cell death. The approval of Mundesine® provides further treatment options for patients with PTCL.”

The drug has been specifically approved for patients whose PTCL has relapsed (recurred) or is refractory (resistant to treatment). Few effective treatments have been available for these conditions, and relapsed patients currently live an average of six months longer.

The research at the Ferrier Research Institute to identify the active ingredient was carried out with funding support from New Zealand government agencies. Mundesine® was licensed by BioCryst Pharmaceuticals Inc., under an exclusive licence with Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Viclink, Victoria University’s commercialisation office. BioCryst subsequently entered into an exclusive sub-licensing agreement with Mundipharma to develop and commercialise forodesine in the field of oncology.

We think it’s great to see how research started in our universities helps people throughout the World, read about more university research that has changed the World in this feature.

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