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Scope 38 - Where there's research, there's hope

17 April 2009

When the Wellington Cancer and Medical Research Institute was first established in the 1970’s, it was stipulated that approximately half of the Institute’s activities were to be directed to the investigation of cancer, and the remaining half to general medical research. The primary goal of the Institute was to foster research of exceptional quality, for it was considered that to do otherwise would betray the faith and generosity of the Institute’s original benefactors.

Under the guidance of the founding Director Prof William Stehbens, the initial medical research focus of the Institute was concerned with the underlying causes and mechanisms of arterial disease (atherosclerosis and its complications), while the cancer component of the Institute’s research programme was mainly directed at leukaemia, a malignant or cancerous disease of blood cells.

Work in these areas continued following Prof Stehbens’ retirement in 1993, and a new initiative in the field of immunology and asthma was developed by Prof Graham Le Gros with the support of Prof Stehbens’ successor, Prof Richard Beasley, and the Wellington Asthma Research Group. In 1994 Prof Le Gros was appointed Research Director of the Malaghan Institute and was instrumental in helping establish a new Cancer Immunotherapy programme at the Institute, headed by Prof Franca Ronchese, to exploit the potential of a rare class of blood cells for directing immune responses against cancer cells. This pioneering research has since led to the involvement of the Malaghan Institute in clinical trials of dendritic cell-based vaccines for the treatment of individuals with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanoma and glioblastoma multiforme (brain cancer).

In recent years the Malaghan Institute has replaced its original focus on heart disease with world-class research programmes in arthritis, multiple sclerosis and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis but has remained steadfast in our quest for more effective cancer treatments. Today the Malaghan Institute is recognised as New Zealand’s premier vaccine and immunology research centre, bringing benefit and hope to our communities through scientific research.