David Downs

Scope 67: Down with Cancer

24 October 2018

Cancer survivor and self-declared ‘genetically modified organism’ David Downs launched the Down with Cancer fundraising campaign in September. David is on a mission to raise $1 million for the Malaghan Institute’s ground-breaking CAR T-cell therapy programme and give New Zealanders early access to potentially life-saving treatment.

In January 2017, the businessman, author, comedian and public speaker was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After 12 rounds of chemotherapy, he was told he had less than a year to live.

Fortunately, David was accepted into a clinical trial for CAR T-cell therapy in the United States. A revolutionary new approach to cancer treatment, CAR T-cell therapy harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells. It involves modifying a patient’s immune cells (T-cells) in the laboratory, to redirect them against cancer cells. The modified T-cells are then returned to the patient, where they can attack and destroy cancer cells. The treatment David received in the United States sent his cancer into complete remission.

After returning to New Zealand, David visited the Institute to share his experience and find out more about our own CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials and research programme. Inspired by what he heard, he pledged to raise $1 million to help bring the treatment to New Zealand.

Led by clinical director Dr Rob Weinkove, the Institute’s CAR T-cell therapy team is currently focused on ensuring the trial meets New Zealand’s strict regulatory and safety standards, to ensure it will be as safe for patients as possible.

David’s Down with Cancer campaign kicked off with a flurry of media activity, including in the Dominion Post, on Stuff, the New Zealand Herald, Idealog, Mike Hosking Breakfast and TV3’s The Project. David will be speaking at a range of events across the country to encourage Kiwis to get behind the cause. For more information on the campaign and to get involved, visit www.downwithcancer.nz.