We’ve achieved significant progress in 2019
With another year drawing to a close, we reflect on what the past 12 months have brought to the GMRI and the people we aim to help. We’ve made some exciting discoveries and shared them with scientists and specialists around the world. We’ve had some talented people join our team, and we’re waiting for our new Principal Investigator to arrive. Underscoring these activities is the generous support of our many donors, whose dedication and generosity allow us to keep pushing the boundaries. We couldn’t be more grateful to you all.
Our research recognised at international conferences
We’ve presented our work at many conferences this year, and have been excited to see our research well received in New Zealand and internationally.
One of this year’s highlights was the Annual Scientific Congress of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, held in Bangkok in May. Over 1700 delegates attended the conference. We were inspired by our fellow researchers, and honoured to deliver eight presentations. Dr Swee Tan was invited to deliver the Tom Reeve Lecture — the named lecture for the Surgical Oncology Section — as well as a Plenary Address in the Future Horizon Session, and a keynote address at the Paediatric Surgery Section. Matt Munro, our PhD student, Claudia Paterson, a former summer student, and Dr Agadha Wickremesekera, a GMRI Research Associate, also presented at the Congress.
More recently two of our summer students, Ethan Kilmister and Olivia Buchanan, presented their research at the Australian and New Zealand Head and Neck Cancer Society’s Annual Scientific Meeting in Adelaide.
Our research papers in international journals
During the year our team presented 19 papers at conferences and published 26 articles in peer-reviewed international journals. We have also published in special issues of two prestigious international journals, Frontiers in Oncology and Cells, at their invitation.
Frontiers in Oncology published our paper Therapeutic Targeting of Cancer Stem Cells Via Modulation of the Renin-Angiotensin System in their journal Oncology. This appeared in their special issue Therapeutic Targeting of Cancer Stem Cells — The Current State of the Art.
Cells published our paper Therapeutic Targeting of Cancer Stem Cells in Human Glioblastoma by Manipulating the Renin-Angiotensin System. This was included in their special issue Molecular and Cellular Mechanisms of Human Astrocytomas Progression: Knowledge Increasing to Reach Therapeutic Horizons.
Back in April we reported on the response to a GMRI article that had been published in August 2016 in the international journal Frontiers in Surgery – Neurosurgery. Readers around the world had viewed the article more than 15,000 times. The article, which addresses our current understanding of cancer stem cells in glioblastoma, a severe brain cancer, has now been viewed over 17,500 times since publication. This puts it in the top 3% of the most viewed papers published by the Frontiers journals.
We’re also very pleased to have received the Best Oceanic Paper Award from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons for a paper on Dupuytren’s disease. Our paper was published in the international journal Reconstructive Surgery Global Open. The Award was announced in September at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ annual scientific meeting, held in San Diego and attended by thousands of delegates from 73 countries.
A brief update on our clinical trials
Our clinical trial on glioblastoma, a severe brain cancer, is progressing well. The trial uses the GMRI’s novel cancer treatment to target cancer stem cells by manipulating the renin-angiotensin system with a combination of low-cost off-patent oral medications. We currently have 12 patients on treatment and the early results are promising. Patients have excellent quality of life with no side effects from the treatment. Some patients have shown no progression of their cancer, and some are living longer than is expected after relapse.
We have also started a clinical trial on malignant melanoma to test our novel cancer treatment.
We’re looking forward to welcoming Dr Sean Hall to the GMRI team
Our new Principal Investigator, Dr Sean Hall PhD, will arrive at the GMRI soon. Sean is coming from Switzerland, where he has been Group Leader at the Division of Thoracic Surgery at Bern University Hospital.
In his position at the GMRI, Sean will take on a similar role to Dr Tinte Itinteang, who left us early in the year to return to Kiribati to support his elderly parents. We’re excited to have Sean join the GMRI team and look forward to welcoming him to Wellington.
Our new summer students have begun their valuable work
This year’s summer students have arrived at the GMRI, bringing with them hope for new developments in the treatment of unsolved medical problems. Ethan Kilmister will investigate schwannoma. Lauren Hansen will research arterio-venous malformation, a challenging form of vascular birthmark. Adam Sangster will focus on head and neck metastatic malignant melanoma. Arthur McTavish will investigate lung adenocarcinoma. And Felix Humphries will study metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.
We’re very grateful to Sir Roderick and Lady Gillian Deane for supporting our summer students through the Deane Endowment Trust.
Our cancer biologist Dr Imogen Roth is right at home at the GMRI
At the beginning of this year, cancer biologist Dr Imogen Roth joined the GMRI team after completing a postdoctoral research fellowship supported by a prestigious Nuffield Medical Fellowship at the University of Oxford’s Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research. Imogen brought her extensive research experience and a long list of awards. She’s happy to be back and contributing to biomedical research in New Zealand.
Imogen is focused on our ongoing investigation into glioblastoma. She’s working with our collaborators at The University of Melbourne and the Department of Neurosurgery at Wellington Regional Hospital.
We’re grateful for the support of two tireless fundraisers and many others
Between them, Peter Besseling and Carol Law have fundraised and spread word of our work for many years in over 40 New Zealand places. Peter lost his wife to glioblastoma in 2017, and started a campaign before her death that led him to share our work with groups throughout the country. Carol started her fundraising by holding morning teas at her own home more than 10 years ago. While she still has morning teas, her work has grown to include raffles and even a gala event, in which she and fellow organisers raised over $80,000.
We’re humbled by the extent of these individuals’ and others’ dedication and kindness in support of our work.
We welcome your support — every donation makes a difference
Our research shows enormous promise and could transform how cancer is treated. We need to undertake clinical trials over several years to test our novel cancer treatment on different types of cancer. But clinical trials are expensive — we need $1 million per trial per year to complete them.
Our financial backing is based on a shared funding solution involving the Government and public sector agencies, businesses, charitable organisations and private donations from people like you. We’d love it if you’d consider supporting us. Every donation helps us on our journey to reduce human suffering and improve lives.
We’ll keep you up to date on Facebook and through our newsletters. Sign up to receive the latest news if you haven’t already!
With our very best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a successful 2020.
Dr Swee Tan ONZM MBBS FRACS PhD