Almost everyone at some point in their lives will be affected by cancer, and with our growing and aging population, more people are being diagnosed with cancers.
Bowel, breast, cervical, lung, prostate and skin cancer, including melanoma, are common cancers in New Zealand, but today many cancers can be cured if they’re found and treated in time. It is estimated that in New Zealand about one person in every three who gets cancer is cured. And even if cancer cannot be cured, more effective treatment means many people are now living longer with cancer.
How? The answer is research
“Big things can happen from small beginnings when bold ideas about cancer are given a chance to grow and develop,” says Douglas Ormrod, Executive Director of Cancer Research Trust NZ, the country’s second-largest non-government cancer research charity, funding over $15 million in research and professional development projects since 2002.
“There’s hope in every dollar and every cent of every donation the Trust receives goes into funding research and professional development projects across the cancer control spectrum from prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment, to improvements in end of life care.”
Getting Cancer on the Run
Cancer Research Trust has supported some of NZ’s best minds in science and medicine like Dr Aniruddha Chatterjee, Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Pathology at Otago University and Rutherford Discovery Fellow.
Unlocking the secret of the cells
In collaboration with an international team, he is using his latest Cancer Research Trust grant to unlock the secret of cancer cells to find the biological markers to switch genes on and off. The goal is to predict the risk of cancer spreading and whether it will respond to drug treatment.
“It’s secondary cancers that are the killers,” he says. “We want to gain a deeper understanding of how primary cancer cells spread and how they switch on and off using the patient’s own immune system.”
Made for One
Another leading cancer immunologist, Dr Roslyn Kemp, also working at Otago University, says Cancer Research Trust sponsored the use of new technology to study colorectal cancer tumours.
“My research goal is to find the most effective cancer treatment for each individual cancer patient using the patient’s own immune responses,” she says. “I would like the oncologist to be able to tell their patient that they can provide a personalised treatment regimen and to use that patient’s own immune response to do it. This gives everybody a feeling of ownership over their outcome and hopefully a sense of control over their treatment in a very confusing and upsetting time.”
Training Immune Cells to do the Work
Then there is the work of Dr Robert Weinkove at the Malaghan Institute in Wellington who is pushing forward with CAR T-cell research. He is setting up New Zealand’s first clinical trial of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cells.
This exciting technology involves modifying patients’ immune cells in the laboratory to ‘re-direct’ them against malignant cells, then growing these modified cells in the lab, before returning them to the patient. It was grants from Cancer Research Trust NZ that helped Dr Weinkove establish his laboratory and reach this exciting stage in his work.
Teaching Old Drugs New Tricks
And another gifted scientist the Trust supports is Waikato-based oncologist Dr Michael Jameson who established the power of brussel sprouts and broccoli to lessen the risk of bladder cancer recurrence after successful primary treatment.
He is now teaching old drugs new tricks in a Cancer Research Trust NZ-funded clinical trial following up earlier laboratory research that showed the cheap antacid drug, cimetidine, can reduce the side effects of a particularly toxic chemotherapy drug, cisplatin, without compromising its positive effects on tumours.
Hope in every Dollar
The Trust is currently reviewing 50 grant applications for research and professional development support, but more funds are needed to help save lives and that’s where the community, people like you, can join us to get cancer on the run.
You can donate here and now.
Cancer Research Trust NZ is a registered charity and all donations of more than $5 are tax deductible.