Goats recruited in fight against cancer


New Zealand scientists may have found a cheaper way to develop expensive cancer-fighting drugs, and they're using goats to do it.

At the AgResearch laboratories in Hamilton they've developed a special goat to produce human medicine.

"There's already some human medicines on the human market that are produced in livestock animals, so it's very close to reality," says Dr Goetz Laible. "We just hope it's also close to reality in New Zealand."

They may look like ordinary goats, but some of them have been genetically modified to produce milk which contains specific antibodies.

It will then be tested at the University of Auckland.

"From there all we have to do is take the milk out and purify the drug out of the milk, and the idea will be that we can use that as a drug in humans," says Professor Peter Shepherd.

The high cost of cancer drugs, like Keytruda, has been hitting headlines. This could be a cheap way of replicating expensive biologics when their patents run out.

Just 100 goats could provide enough medicine for the world in a year.

"There's a lot of these [drugs] coming off patent in the next few years and the trick will be to produce these at a very low cost so that more patients can get access to them," says Prof Shepherd.

If successful, we could see the first human trials within two years.