A Keytruda study will be undertaken by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board's Clinical Trials Unit to look into the effectiveness of the drug.

The long term study will look at the results of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) being given with Epacadostat which will take place on the Tauranga Hospital campus.

Pharmac agreed to fund the drug for advanced melanoma patients from the beginning of September.

The Tauranga-based Clinical Trials unit was one of two sites in New Zealand selected to conduct the research study which looked at whether Keytruda was more effective in preventing Melanoma progression when given with another cancer drug, Epacadostat, rather than on its own.

Six patients from the Bay of Plenty were taking part in the study which started in June.

Eligible patients were referred by their oncologists and their progress was being closely monitored.

The study would run for two years in Tauranga and in Dunedin.

The Clinical Trials Unit (CTU) had experienced significant growth since it was established in 2009 with two staff.

It now had a team of nine research nurses, a research assistant and research manager, earlier this year it was moved into a purpose built facility at 850 Cameron Road.

The CTU was headed by Professor Peter Gilling and undertook clinical trials and research for a variety of pharmaceutical and device companies and research projects.

The majority of the trials were multi-centred, international, pharmaceutical studies; in the fields of oncology, rheumatology, gastroenterology, respiratory, cardiology, infectious diseases and original research.