New database and funding improve access to breast cancer clinical trials

Around the world, the 20th May is regarded as the anniversary of the first ever clinical trial1 and is recognised as International Clinical Trials Day.

Breast Cancer Foundation NZ (BCFNZ) is acknowledging the importance of clinical trials in breast cancer with a new clinical trials database and funding grants for three trials around New Zealand.

The BCFNZ clinical trials database lists trials in New Zealand and Australia for different types and stages of breast cancer. Chief executive Evangelia Henderson said women need to be proactive in discussing trials with their doctors, and the database can help arm them with information they need.

“Many women tell us their doctors haven’t mentioned clinical trials, so it can be worth doing your own research,” she said. “Right now it’s very hard to get into a trial that’s not at your local DHB, but that needs to change, and patients should persevere in asking. For all women with breast cancer, the opportunity to trial new therapies and treatments that may extend or save their life, or improve their quality of life, is something they should have full knowledge of and access to,” says Evangelia Henderson.

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation is pleased to announce the funding of three new clinical trials in breast cancer treatment in New Zealand for 2016:


ELIMINATE is a phase 2 trial conducted by the Australia & New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group to test whether giving two types of breast cancer treatment (chemotherapy and hormone treatment) concurrently is more effective than giving consecutively (which is common practice). Participants have oestrogen receptor positive breast cancer (ER+) and their tumours are large and/or attached to nearby tissue. Shrinking the tumour using neoadjuvant therapy before surgery could mean an easier and smaller operation is required rather than mastectomy. The NZBCF is funding patients through Auckland and Canterbury DHBs, and the trial is also running at Waikato Hospital.


Conducted by the Auckland District Health Board, as part of the international Cleveland Clinic’s “Regional Anesthesia and Breast Cancer Recurrence” study, BCAR is a study to compare the cancer recurrence rates in patients undergoing routine anaesthesia before breast cancer surgery. Two groups will be compared: one will have general anaesthesia with opioids, and the other will have an epidural or paravertebral block and deep sedation.


Conducted by The University of Auckland,and open to patients in Auckland and Christchurch, MAGLEV is a pilot study investigating whether taking a magnesium supplement reduces memory and concentration issues caused by hormone therapy commonly used in breast cancer treatment. Patients receiving oestrogen-suppressing drugs for breast cancer sometimes experience side effects related to cognitive function, including poor memory and inability to concentrate. These side effects can discourage women from completing their treatment, and could be due to low magnesium levels in the brain.A finding that some women benefit from this simple remedy would have enormous global impact.

New Zealand falls well behind other developed countries in regards to the availability of clinical trials and access to the latest medicines, and only 2% of New Zealand women with breast cancer currently participate in clinical trials.

“Our goal is for New Zealand to attract more local and international clinical trials to encourage national recruitment to new drug trials,” says Evangelia Henderson.

The BCFNZ’s Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Database is available here. The database lists all current trials that are recruiting for New Zealand breast cancer patients, with links to the Trial Investigators to make registration simple and easy.

The trials are grouped into:


Number of

NZ based Trials

currently recruiting

Number of

Australian Trials

currently open to NZ participants

Early Breast Cancer Trials



Advanced Breast Cancer Trials



Supportive Care Trials



Screening/Prevention/Familial/Other Trials






About Breast Cancer in New Zealand:

- More than 3000 women a year are diagnosed with breast cancer in NZ – that’s 8 women a day

- 90-95% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease

- Around 350 NZ women under the age of 45 (when free mammograms start) will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year – that’s one woman a day

- While breast cancer has a good cure rate when found early, many women have their cancer come back: only 73% will be disease-free 10 years after diagnosis

- More than 600 women will die of breast cancer this year – about the size of a large primary school.

- The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation recommends women consider having yearly breast screening mammograms at age 40-49 years of age, then screen every two years from age 50.

1 The first clinical trial was conducted by James Lind May 20, 1747 on sailors aboard the HMS Salisbury providing evidence of the link between citrus fruits and the treatment of scurvy.

2 Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Database

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