Key Points:

A New Zealand drug being tested for use against a lung cancer is to be evaluated by a multinational pharmaceutical company for use against a type of breast cancer.

The drug, ASA404, known as a tumour-vascular disrupting agent because it interferes with the blood supply to tumours, is to be evaluated as a treatment for HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer.

About 25 per cent to 30 per cent of women with breast cancer have tumours that express high levels of HER2. These tumours tend to grow faster and are three times more likely to recur than tumours that do not carry the protein.

HER2-positive women have access to the expensive drug Herceptin.

British drug developer Antisoma said pharmaceutical company Novartis would evaluate ASA404 as a treatment for women with other forms of metastatic breast cancer, which are HER2-negative.

The testing would be given a higher priority than work already under way on using it against prostate cancer.

Details of the plans for breast cancer trials would be released this year.

AASA404 was originally known as DMXAA when it was discovered by two Auckland University professors, Bruce Baguley and William Denny.

Tests on people in Auckland in 2000 showed DMXAA could stop tumour growth by killing blood vessels supplying the tumours.

Because ASA404 targets tumour blood vessels, it has potential to be used against a variety of solid tumours, all of which depend on blood vessels to survive and grow.