Medical ice cream may combat some chemo side effects

03 November, 2009

An innovative new medical ice cream developed by Fonterra and The University of Auckland has shown early promise for combating some of the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy.

The ice cream, known as ReCharge, has started Phase 2 clinical trials in New Zealand to assess its effectiveness against Chemotherapy Induced Diarrhoea (CID) and anaemia, but the ‘dessert with a difference’ could also reduce weight loss and damage to the immune system during chemotherapy.

Oncology Centres at Whangarei, Auckland, Waikato, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill are taking part in the trial. Around 10 patients are already signed up for a daily regime that includes eating a 100 gram tub of strawberry ice cream containing two active dairy ingredients that combine to address the unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy. Cancer Trials New Zealand (CTNZ) is currently seeking 190 additional volunteers for the trial.

The trial’s manager, Dr David Perez of CTNZ says ReCharge ice cream has been welcomed by medical professionals for its tasty and palatable format, as chemotherapy patients can often lose their appetite.

“There is always a lot of interest in how food affects the treatment of cancer, and we’re inviting potential volunteers who are about to receive chemotherapy, to speak to their oncologist about taking part in the trial. While ReCharge has shown early promise in the laboratory, it’s also important to be aware that a high proportion of Phase 2 trials do not subsequently work out,” Dr Perez said.

Dr Jeremy Hill, Chief Technology Officer at Fonterra, said the development of ReCharge was the result of linking Fonterra’s team of 350 world-class dairy researchers in Palmerston North with the ice cream making experts at Fonterra’s company, Tip Top, and the medical expertise of the University of Auckland.

“It was a tremendous technical challenge to develop this ice cream. We drew on many years of research into the health-promoting properties of milk and worked with Tip Top to incorporate a specific type of interacting milk fat and dairy protein, into a great tasting, easily palatable ice cream for people who find it difficult to consume food,” said Dr Hill.

“We worked through our LactoPharma partnership with The University of Auckland to screen the dairy components for health effects. The two bio-active milk components developed for ReCharge have the unique potential to assist the body in coping with the side effects of chemotherapy,” Dr Hill said.

LactoPharma is a joint venture between Fonterra and The University of Auckland. It is funded by Fonterra and the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology which jointly invested NZ$2 million to develop ReCharge in a project led by LactoPharma’s Associate Professor Geoff Krissansen.

“Earlier trials in the laboratory found that weight loss and damage to the gut lining were significantly reduced by the active ingredients in ReCharge. There were also marked improvements to the immune system and blood markers,” said Associate Professor Krissansen.

The patient trials have been approved by the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Health and Disability Ethics Committee, with outcomes of the trial expected to be known in about a year.

“We have now been given the opportunity to test ReCharge through clinical trials using the expertise of Cancer Trials New Zealand. More volunteers are sought, so if you are about to receive chemotherapy and are interested in taking part, please speak with your oncologist to see if you are a suitable candidate,” Fonterra’s Dr Hill said.

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