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Malaghan PhD student receives Māori Cancer Researcher Award

28 April 2023

Malaghan PhD student Danielle Sword is one of two Māori cancer researchers being awarded funding by Te Kāhui Matepukupuku o Aotearoa (the Cancer Society of New Zealand) and Hei Āhuru Mōwai (Māori Cancer Research Leadership Aotearoa) to help address health inequities. 

Danielle, who is undertaking her University of Otago PhD within the Malaghan Institute's  CAR T-cell programme, will look into improving the mechanisms of CAR T-cells in the laboratory and investigate te ao Māori perspectives on CAR T-cell therapy from patients, their whānau, and the researcher.

“I would like to see our whānau have a better chance at fighting against cancer. This Māori Cancer Researcher Award means I can pursue a PhD that will utilise both Western Science and Mātauranga Māori to explore the emerging cancer treatment CAR T-cell therapy and its potential impact on Māori,” says Danielle.

“I am very humbled and proud to be awarded this scholarship. The support from Hei Āhuru Mōwai and the Cancer Society with this kaupapa gives me more confidence in my mahi as a wāhine Māori scientist and researcher.”

Dr Jonathon Koea, Māngai for Hei Āhuru Mōwai, says “These awards demonstrate what can be achieved by mainstream and Kaupapa Māori NGOs working together to grow the Māori research workforce and answer research questions of relevance to all New Zealanders.”

Tumu Whakarae of Te Kāhui Matepukuku o Aotearoa Lucy Elwood adds: “The Māori Cancer Researcher Awards demonstrate our commitment to advance Māori aspirations in cancer research. We hope that with these awards, we can change the underrepresentation of Māori researchers in the cancer space and reduce health inequities.”

The other recipient of the award is Grace Young (University of Otago) for her PhD research into developing a better treatment for triple-negative breast cancer, which is fatal to many patients. This type of cancer is prevalent among young women in New Zealand, and in particular Māori women.