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Expanding the Applicability of CAR T-Cell Therapy in Aotearoa

We are pleased to announce the recipients of the Māori Cancer Researcher Awards.

Danielle Sword

Read about Danielle Sword, one of the Award recipients.

Expanding the Applicability of CAR T-Cell Therapy in Aotearoa

Māori Cancer Researcher Awards 2022
PhD Scholarship
Supervisors: Dr. Justine Camp (Otago), Dr. Amohia Boulton (Whakauae Research Services Ltd), Dr. Rachel Perret (Malaghan), Dr. Rob Weinkove (Malaghan)
University of Otago, hosted by the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research

Te Whakawhānui i te Rongoā Mate Pukupuku a CAR T-Cell i Aotearoa

Cancer causes changes in cells in the body, resulting in their uncontrolled growth, and disruption to normal tissue structures. Cancer immunotherapies (treatments that stimulate the immune response) are an alternative cancer treatment aside from traditional chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments.

A recent form of cancer immunotherapy, “CAR T-cell therapy”, involves genetically engineering a patient’s immune cells so that they recognise, attack and eliminate cancer cells – and administering the genetically engineered cells to the patient as a form of treatment.

However, the way this therapy is administered has limitations in catering to the needs of Māori patients. Another limitation is being unable to ensure that cancer cells are permanently destroyed, sometimes causing the cancer to recur.

Danielle’s research will investigate both improving the mechanisms of these engineered T-cells (CAR T-cells) in the laboratory, and also investigating a Te Ao Māori perspective on CAR T-cell therapy, from both a researcher and patient perspective.

"My whānau, hapū and Iwi are a major inspiration for everything I do in life, and many of my wider whānau, Iwi and hāpori have been diagnosed and died from cancer. I would like to see our whānau have a better chance at fighting against cancer if one day they find themselves needing to.

The Māori Cancer Research Award means I can pursue a PhD that will utilise both Western Science and Mātauranga Māori to explore an emerging cancer treatment named CAR T-Cell therapy and its potential impact on Māori. I am very humbled and proud to be awarded this scholarship, the support from Hei Ahuru Mōwai and Cancer Society with this kaupapa gives me more confidence in my mahi as a wāhine Māori scientist and researcher".

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