A scientists claims to have made a significant breakthrough in the battle against cancer using state-of-the-art gene therapy.

Professor Nigel McMillan claims to have eliminated cervical cancer in mice through gene-editing technology.

The Australia-based researcher, based at Menzies Health Institute, Queensland, claims it is the time any form of cancer has cured using gene-editing methods.

Timaru-based McMillan said: "It's been a nice breakthrough. We're using technology called gene editing or CRISPR.

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"This technology allows us to attack cancer at its very source – the genes themselves."

McMillan's team in Queensland targeted genomes – sets of genetic material present in a cell or organism – and isolated them.

Researchers hoped this help attack only the tumour cells, leaving the healthy organisms alone.

Professor McMillan explained: "This is really the next level of cancer treatment to be able to specifically target cells at gene level and that has not been done before."

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"We invented the delivery, the nano part of the system about 15 years ago.

"We took the technology overseas and put this together about four years ago.

"After a lot of blood, sweat and tears we finally made it work properly. This is only one of the steps along the development pathway.

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"First of all we do it on tissue culture (cells in an artificial system), then we move onto an actual live animal model where we are now."

McMillan, who has a PhD in virology from the University of Otago, has spent time working in North America and has been in Australia since 1994.

He said the next step of his team's cancer research will involve people.

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