As 2018 is coming to an end, on behalf of the GMRI I’d like to thank you all for your ongoing interest and support of our work. We rely on the dedication and generosity of donors and many other people and organisations to be able to keep pushing the boundaries, seeking to bypass what has been done to treat cancer for the last 100 years. We’re excited about what we’ve accomplished this year as we focus on our goal to treat cancer without surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. We couldn’t have achieved as much without the support of so many.
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We rely on the dedication and kindness of donors to keep our work going. So we were thrilled to recently receive a very large and generous donation of $300,000 from the Hugo Charitable Trust. We’ll put this money towards our cancer clinical study programme.
Our labs at the GMRI rely on human tissue samples for our research projects. These samples are stored in the GMRI tissue bank, which forms a valuable and unique resource for our work. To collect the types of samples we need requires the knowledge of two research nurses. With many years of nursing experience between them, Carolyn Croasdale and Merie Claridge make up this experienced team.
In the Hutt Hospital outpatients clinic, Dr David Young and Frances FitzJohn are the face of the GMRI team treating patients with devastating brain cancer, glioblastoma. They are trialling the novel cancer treatment developed by the GMRI, consisting of a blend of commonly used medications. The 3-year clinical trial started earlier this year. If successful, this approach could transform the way cancer is treated, potentially prolonging life and improving life quality.
We’re proud to share the experiences of our students and trainees who have recently presented at international conferences.
A new cancer treatment developed by the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute is being trialled for glioblastoma, a devastating brain cancer, which could revolutionise how the cancer is treated.
If proven effective, the cancer could be treated at home — without chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or surgery. Patients would instead take commonly used, inexpensive medications. The treatment would cost a fraction of current treatments.
Running a laboratory isn’t just about pioneering new research. It’s also an opportunity to foster the talents and enthusiasm of future scientists.
You’ve probably heard that it takes a village to raise a child. But did you know that it takes a community to run a lab? The generosity and hard work of a huge range of donors and fundraisers helps to keep the GMRI staffed, stocked, and functioning year round. We’re grateful for every contribution we receive — no amount is too small to make a difference.
Having 13 abstracts accepted for an Australasian conference is testimony to the GMRI’s research community, says Chief Scientific Officer Dr Tinte Itinteang. It highlights the significance and breadth of the GMRI’s work.
The research team at the Gillies McIndoe Research Insitute has been invited to write an editorial on a cancer research paper by scientists from Canada and United Kingdom, which appeared in the prestigious journal Nature.
Stem cells differ from other kinds of cells. Unlike muscle cells, blood cells, or nerve cells, for example, stem cells can divide and renew themselves.
In August the GMRI was honoured to host top plastic surgeon and stem cell researcher, Professor Wayne Morrison, as part of the GMRI Eminent Speakers’ Programme.
The GMRI is pleased to host a further public lecture in December as part of the GMRI Eminent Speakers’ Programme.
Researchers from the GMRI and neurosurgeons from Capital & Coast DHB have joined forces to tackle glioblastoma (GB), the most aggressive primary cancer of the brain.
During the past few months the GMRI has welcomed a number of VIP’s to our Newtown laboratories, including Steffan Crausaz, CEO of PHARMAC, CEO of the Health Research Council, Professor Kathryn McPherson, and Singapore-based businessman and innovator Robert Yap.
In August, GMRI Executive Director Dr Swee Tan and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Tinte Itinteang were guests of the Plimmerton Rotary Club, where they were presented with a significant donation for our cancer stem cell research.
Executive Director Dr Swee Tan and Chief Scientific Officer Dr Tinte Itinteang recently returned from London where they delivered two keynote addresses at the 10th International Conference on Cancer Stem Cells and Oncology Research.
The GMRI is pleased to announce that Australian Professor Wayne Morrison will be giving a public lecture in Wellington as part of the GMRI Eminent Speakers’ Programme.
Staff at the GMRI received a special visit this month from Queen Margaret College student Phoebe Ellis, who has raised close to $1000 towards the GMRI’s glioblastoma (GB) research programme.
People suffering from Dupuytren’s disease could ultimately regain the function of their hands and quality of life, thanks to the international award winning work of the GMRI.
The pioneering work of Sir Harold Gillies, whom the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute is co-named after, has been recognised by the UK’s Daily Mail as part of the commemorations of the battle of Passchendaele.
The GMRI is making improvements in how we communicate with our friends and supporters, by joining Facebook and Twitter.
Dr Swee Tan, Executive Director, and Dr Tinte Itinteang, Chief Scientific Officer, will be attending and presenting at the 10th International Conference on Cancer Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine in London, to be held in June.
I was delighted to visit Dr Swee Tan, Paul Baines and the team at the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute in February.
Talk of an FV1200 Olympus ‘laser’ confocal microscope with live cell imaging means nothing to most people – but to the GMRI it’s a prized possession which has assisted with many scientific breakthroughs.
The GMRI’s research team is actively engaged in publishing articles in peer-reviewed medical science journals. This is an important aspect of the research programme as it promotes an international awareness of significant findings by the GMRI and provides a vital forum for collaborative exchange, critique and review. To view summaries of some recent publications please click here.
The chair of the GMRI, Paul Baines, says he’s very pleased that Andrew Blair, the chair of Capital & Coast District Health Board and Hutt Valley District Health Board, has accepted an invitation to join the GMRI’s Board.
The GMRI is helping to produce a new generation of high achievers in the medical research field.
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) is helping to develop a smart drug delivery system that will see medications delivered directly through the skin rather than in pill form or as an injection.
People with brain cancer could have better chances of survival thanks to preliminary research the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) has conducted into cancer stem cells in brain tumours, says Dr Agadha Wickremesekera, a neurosurgeon at the Wellington Regional Hospital and an honorary research associate of the GMRI.
Hundreds of New Zealanders suffering from Dupuytren’s disease could ultimately regain the function of their hands and live normal lives, thanks to the work of the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI).
Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) summer students Sabrina Koh and Nicholas On have been working on medical research that could have an impact on millions of people world-wide.
It’s not every day a 22-year-old has their research findings featured in a leading international publication, the Journal of Clinical Pathology.
The eminent late plastic surgeon Dr Max Lovie and highly-regarded plastic surgery nurse, Christina (Tina) Ackland, whose work impacted on thousands of people, were honoured at the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) recently.
Two years of hard work at the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) was presented recently on the world stage at the 21st International Workshop on Vascular Anomalies.
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) is planting its “stake in the ground” in relation to its work on vascular birthmarks.
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) has demonstrated that supporting budding science and medical researchers can achieve significant benefits.
Sam Siljee and Emily Keane are two of those success stories; they have recently co-authored a research paper which Sam says “is far-reaching in terms of the understanding of venous malformation”.
Max Blackwell enjoyed his first stint as a Gillies McIndoe Research Institute summer student so much that he applied for a second time.
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute has honoured the late Graham Langridge, a long-time supporter and board member of the Gillies McIndoe Foundation (GMF), which established the GMRI, by establishing a scholarship to support PhD students.
An exceptional group of university students has participated in the 2015/16 Gillies McIndoe Research Institute’s summer student programme, sponsored by the Deane Endowment Trust.
Fibrotic conditions, characterised by excessive bodily scar formation, affecting various organ systems, currently do not have satisfactory treatment.
But that could be a thing of the past thanks to researchers at the GMRI.
The ground-breaking work of internationally-recognised New Zealanders and pioneers of plastic surgery, Sir Harold Delf Gillies and Sir Archibald McIndoe, was recognised at a function hosted by the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, at which the Minister of Health, the Hon. Dr Jonathan Coleman, unveiled specially-prepared portraits of the two men.
The life and work of pioneering plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe is to be made into a movie.
In October members of Wellington’s medical and scientific community and the public attended lectures by two world-renowned American biomedical researchers, courtesy of the GMRI.
The GMRI’s latest strawberry birthmark research was recently presented at the Human Proteome Organisation World Congress in Vancouver.
A Martinborough man brutally beaten in 2012 has finally met the plastic surgeon who put his face back together.
The GMRI has attracted another highly regarded person to work on cancer stem cell research, while at the same time securing significant expertise in a major new field of surgical research.
By NZ First Health Spokesperson, Barbara Stewart, MP
I would first like to thank Dr Swee Tan and his team at the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute for inviting me to visit their fantastic facility to learn more about their exciting new research into cancer and other diseases.
GMRI staff joined thousands of Wellingtonians in celebrating the All Blacks’ Rugby World Cup victory at the welcoming parade on 6 November.
Staff at the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute were privileged to be visited by several local dignitaries in July, though the latter insist the pleasure was entirely theirs.
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute opens doors for future biomedical research, for research students, and for the future treatment of cancers, says GMRI Honorary Research Associate, Dr Agadha Wickremesekera.
Two former participants in the GMRI’s summer students’ programme have just been awarded Bachelor of Medical Science (Hons) degrees from the University of Otago.
“It is a privilege to work alongside such passionate and gifted people. Swee and his colleagues are very capable and committed; I’m fortunate to be part of a team that is so focussed on achieving its aspirations.”
The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute is pleased to welcome Alice Chibnall to the team.
Alice joined us after completing her Masters of Science degree in biological science, in which she was awarded first class Honours by the University of Waikato.
All of us at the GMRI, and our supporters and collaborators, are delighted that our Founder and Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan, has recently been the recipient of a prestigious Kea 2015 World Class New Zealand Award.
Professor Reg Marsh’s approach to ‘winding down’ in his later years is different than most – he spends his time volunteering as a biostatistician at the GMRI.
It’s not surprising, though, given the impressive 53 year career under his belt.
“I just want to do work that is interesting, and may be helpful to a wider part of the community,” he says.
Life would definitely be dull without a challenge, says the newly appointed Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) of the GMRI, Dr Tinte Itinteang.
Dr Itinteang has taken on the CSO role, succeeding Dr Paul Davis, who has stepped down from the acting role, but still remains active in the GMRI as a Senior Research Fellow.
“The aim from my very first meeting with Swee 16 years ago was to set up a research institute. There have been highs and lows along the way, but we’ve finally achieved what we set out to do.”
So says Dr Paul Davis, who is stepping down as the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute’s Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) after filling the acting role for two years.
Rod Evans explains why the Evans family remain long-term supporters of the GMRI
The Evans family’s relationship with the GMRI began around 15 years ago when Dr Swee Tan performed an operation on Nola Evans, my mother, replacing a cancerous jawbone with part of her hipbone. The operation proved very successful and the family, like many others, is forever indebted to Swee.
The Minister of Health, The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, visited the GMRI premises in Newtown, Wellington, in late March at the invitation of the Founder and Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan.
“We were pleased to have an opportunity to brief the Minister on our aspirations and our discoveries to date,” Dr Tan said.
We invite you all to visit the GMRI’s new website.
The GMRI has developed a new website to better showcase its ground-breaking research and to engage on a more personal level with supporters who want to stay abreast of progress.
Chair, Paul Baines, says the website better positions the GMRI’s research focus and tells more of the story behind the Institute’s approach to research into cancer, fibrotic conditions, vascular birthmarks and regenerative medicine, based on the role of stem cells.
“Swee and his team at the GMRI are doing some remarkable work based on concepts that international experts consider to be ground-breaking.
“It’s important that our supporters feel they can engage with what the GMRI is doing, can stay abreast of developments and feel part of the journey.”
Rotary clubs in New Zealand and Australia are being urged to actively support the GMRI.
GMRI Founder and Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan, has a long association with Rotary in New Zealand.
In addition to his work with the GMRI, Swee has provided surgical services for free to the Rotary Overseas Medical Aid Corps (ROMAC).
He was made a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow in 2008 and was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Rotary International Institute conference in Wellington.
The past Governor of District 9940 and the organiser of that conference, Pat Waite, says Swee’s keynote presentation was rated the best by conference delegates.
“Over 80 percent of those surveyed noted Swee’s presentation exceeded expectations, a remarkable result,” Pat says.
Not many people can say they are involved in changing the way cancer is treated – so Sophie de Jong considers herself lucky to be part of that process.
Sophie, a Research Nurse, works at the GMRI, experiencing what she considers to be the “other side” of the profession.
“It’s an interesting challenge, being on the other side and dealing with science and research, rather than dealing directly with patients in a hospital,” Sophie says.
“It’s also extremely exciting, being involved with such ground-breaking work.”
“The GMRI has an absolutely inspiring story to tell, and I’m privileged to be part of it,” says Jane Parker, a GMRI board member and passionate advocate.
Jane is a lawyer at Minter Ellison Rudd Watts, specialising in commercial law and projects with a focus on technology, contracting, intellectual property and governance.
Having done some pro bono work for the GMRI in the past, she was asked to join the board after another lawyer left.
Jane was “delighted” when Swee Tan asked if she was interested in filling the position.
“It was a great moment for me, personally and professionally,” she says.
“After my previous involvement with the Institute, I was very happy to join as it fits my personal values. Their goal is to reduce people’s suffering – how do you fault that?
One of New Zealand’s leading investment bankers hopes to raise as much as $10 million to boost the GMRI’s research efforts.
Rob Cameron, who heads Cameron Partners, is one of this country’s most highly-regarded capital markets practitioners.
His remarkable track record includes chairing the Government’s Capital Markets Development Task Force, and assisting the birth of the Fonterra Shareholders’ Fund and the Government’s partial privatisation programme.
Made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year’s honours list, Rob is now working closely with the GMRI on a novel philanthropic fund raising programme using capital markets techniques.
“The Gillies McIndoe Research Institute’s dream to use its knowledge about strawberry birthmarks to help destroy cancer is extremely powerful. And the co-location adjacent to Wellington Hospital recognises the enormous synergies possible when health science and research work together. The opportunities are indeed limitless.”
That’s the message from former Health Minister, The Hon Tony Ryall, who visited the GMRI with his family just before Christmas.
“It was really a great pleasure to visit with Swee Tan and the team to celebrate their first birthday on site,” Tony says.
One of New Zealand’s best known philanthropists is “terribly impressed” with the young students who have completed this year’s summer student programme at the GMRI.
Lady Deane visited the GMRI in late January to present certificates to the summer students who, she says, “should all be Young New Zealanders of the Year, they are so impressive”.
“These students are very excited about what they have achieved and learned over the summer break while being mentored at the GMRI.”
The programme allows the students to undertake projects at the GMRI, under the supervision and guidance of Dr Tan and his colleagues, from early November until the end of January, when they return to university studies.
The Johnsonville Lions Club has selected the GMRI as the focus for the Club’s 2015 fund raising campaign.
Club member and former president, Jim Ng, says the Club undertakes year-long funding campaigns for ‘worthy causes’.
“The GMRI certainly falls into that category,” Jim says.
“They are doing things totally differently and they deserve our support.”
The Club selected the GMRI after visiting the facility in Newtown late last year and receiving a presentation from Dr Tan.
“Our members get a lot of satisfaction from raising money for organisations that make a difference,” Jim says.
In 2013, New Zealand Community Trust (NZCT) acknowledged the value of the GMRI’s work by entering into a three year funding arrangement with the GMRI.
There are two reasons this is significant – medical research is not NZCT’s typical funding space and NZCT only makes multi-year grants in exceptional circumstances. Chief Executive, Mike Knell, explains why the trust chose to support GMRI.
“NZCT is the largest funder of amateur sport in New Zealand with more than 80% of the $40 million we distribute annually going to sports organisations,” Mike says.
Therese Featherston is about to turn 18. This year she’s off to Auckland University to study biomedical sciences. She wants to be a doctor and to develop a career in medical science research.
Last year she was placed first in the Year 11-13 class of the NIWA Wellington Regional Science and Technology Fair, and she received the Genesis Energy Leadership Award after participating in the Realise The Dream National Science Fair, which is supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
It’s not just Gillies McIndoe Research Institute supporters who acknowledge the wonderful work of our founder and executive director, Dr Swee Tan – he’s now been publicly recognised by the prestigious annual Wellingtonian of the Year Awards.
Dr Tan was recently named as the winner of the 2014 Wellingtonian of the Year Awards’ Science and Technology category and was described as being “greatly respected by the international medical and science community and his patients and their families for his pioneering work in vascular birthmarks and cancer”.
Swee Tan wins Medicines New Zealand Award for research
Dr Swee Tan has scooped the Medicines New Zealand 2014 Value of Medicines Award for his outstanding work treating newborn babies suffering from disfiguring and life-threatening strawberry birthmarks.
Medicines New Zealand’s $20,000 award aims to stimulate research and advance understanding, effectiveness or safety of the use of medicines or vaccines. Work nominated for the award must be of direct relevance to the current or future provision of healthcare in New Zealand.
The GMRI has established a new health partnership with the Wairarapa, Hutt Valley, and Capital & Coast DHBs in a move that will translate laboratory research into radically improved treatment of diseases, including cancer.
The DHBs have signed a formal memorandum of understanding with the GMRI to promote close interchange, collaboration and sharing of ideas between leading DHB clinicians and the GMRI’s scientists.
“With persistence and the right environment, more effective treatment of many conditions can be found in the future,” Dr Swee Tan says.
Parents of babies with strawberry birthmarks could have Cherise Tan to thank for making their children’s treatment safer.
A fourth year medical student at the University of Otago, Wellington, Cherise (22), has recently published her research in the prestigious Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Cherise’s article presents the results of using a low-dose propranolol regime for the treatment of strawberry birthmarks.
There must be something in the water at the GMRI – Frederica Steiner is the second summer student to have the research she conducted at the Institute recently published in prestigious medical journals.
Frederica (23) is in her final year studying medicine at the University of Otago, Wellington.
She has had two papers published, one in the Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery and the other in the ANZ Journal of Surgery.
Her papers assess the effects of treating venous malformation (VM), a type of vascular birthmark, with alcohol injections or surgery.
GMRI Executive Director, Dr Swee Tan, who was a two-term President of the Australian Head and Neck Cancer Society, was at the prestigious international meeting and heard Ranui’s presentation of her work on cancer stem cells in tongue cancer.
The GMRI Tissue Bank, established early last year, is hugely important for research purposes and will lead to more effective future treatments for patients, according to Governance Committee member, Dr Stuart Johnson.
Dr Johnson is also the Head of the Pathology Department at Hutt Hospital, which performs the initial processing of much of the Tissue Bank tissue samples.
Former cancer patient and ardent supporter of the GMRI, Nick White, has celebrated being alive for five more years by racing to the top of Japan’s Mt Fuji. The climb took him 4 hours and 45 minutes. The gruelling Mt Fuji Summit Race is held annually and only 50 overseas athletes are allowed to enter. “The experience was as difficult as it was satisfying. It still hasn’t really sunk in that I actually got to the top!” Nick says.
GMRI scientist Dr Tinte Itinteang recently presented four papers at the 20th International Workshop of the International Society for the Study of Vascular Anomalies, held in Melbourne this year.
“This biennial international conference brings together the world’s leading researchers and clinicians in a single venue for the latest updates in scientific discoveries and new treatments for vascular birthmarks,” says Dr Itinteang.
On behalf of everyone associated with the Gillies McIndoe Research Institute, I would like to congratulate our executive director, Dr Swee Tan, who was honoured last week by being named the 2014 Inspire Wellington Ambassador.
The Award is presented by the Wellington City Council as part of the Wellington Gold Awards that recognise and celebrate Wellington’s finest.
“The GMRI was invited last year to contribute a chapter to the two-volume book on the state-of-the-art of ACE inhibitors,” says Dr Swee Tan.
The GMRI is not working alone on its ground-breaking research – we are collaborating with other reputable organisations and expanding collaboration with a number of others nationally and internationally.
For example, the GMRI is currently collaborating with members of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago in Dunedin on cutting-edge research.
The new GMRI premises currently host nine research staff, six honorary research associates and two research students on scholarships, and an executive assistant.
The two research students, Ranui Baillie and Lucy Sulzberger, were part of a group of five summer students working at the GMRI last summer.
New GMRI Board member, Dr Virginia Hope, has just been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to health.
The Queen’s Birthday honour recipient was invited to join the board of the GMRI earlier this year as a representative of the Hutt Valley DHB and Capital & Coast DHB.
A well-attended official opening celebration of the new Gillies McIndoe Research Institute (GMRI) was held at Parliament in early December and the people working at the new premises in Newtown are now settling in.
The GMRI’s new laboratory and associated facilities were officially opened by the Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. John Key, and the occasion was hosted by the Hon. Tony Ryall, Minister of Health. The Prime Minister also unveiled a commemorative plaque which is now in the GMRI foyer.
Dr Swee Tan and his team at the GMRI have achieved remarkable success in advancing knowledge relating to strawberry birthmarks and other tumours. This work has the potential to lead to fundamental advances in the understanding and treatment of cancer.
Our scientists are committed to building on the important, internationally-recognised progress they have made to date. It is an exciting journey, made possible, in large part, due to the support and involvement of many people and organisations.