The Grand Master is proud to announce that the Freemasons of New Zealand have launched the Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme in partnership with the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research.
Freemasons will grant $300,000 per year over the next two years –that’s $600,000 in total, to the Malaghan Institute’s research and development of cancer immunotherapy treatments based on CAR T-cell technology. This research is practical – not theoretical – and will have real outcomes that have the potential to help all New Zealanders.
With the Freemasons grant, the Malaghan Institute will focus on improving CAR T-cell therapies and extending them to other cancers. This will be done through laboratory work and clinical trials planned to start in 2019. The funding is also helping the Malaghan Institute recruit a scientist at a world-leading centre back to New Zealand to drive this research further.
So, what exactly is a CAR T-cell therapy? In brief, it involves:
• Extracting a sample of blood from a cancer patient’s body
• Reprogramming the white blood cells to recognise cancer cells, and
• Reintroducing the white blood cells back into the body to find and destroy cancer cells.
The treatment is comparatively simple and non-invasive when contrasted with other forms of cancer treatment however the results can be startling.
The program will be known as the Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme.
So why are the Freemasons helping here?
This collaboration is motivated by some important principles that Freemasonry stands for – such as enlightenment (funding research aimed at building knowledge of nature and science leading to medical breakthroughs) but also compassion, a love for humankind and the offering of a helping hand to New Zealanders afflicted with cancer. Cancer affects all of us directly or indirectly, it takes a toll on family and friends, and one often hears that some forms of treatment can be just as abrasive and aggressive as the cancer itself.
This CAR T-cell therapy is a promising and effective way that Freemasons can help New Zealanders.
We are also delighted that this program will be Wellington based. As Freemasons we are proud that we have are involved in leading edge medical research with Neurology in Auckland (Bro Sir Richard Faull at the Brain Bank) and Paediatrics in Dunedin, both of which have made major strides in their respective areas thanks to the funding from the Freemasons. Now we are adding Cancer Research in Wellington.
This program will provide exciting opportunities for Freemasons in the Central Division, to take a special interest in the cancer research, by inviting scientists and special guest speakers from Malaghan to make presentations to Lodges and Districts on what Freemasons are funding. The stories from Malaghan are heart-stopping and the achievements they produce will bring a tear to the eye.
CAR T-cell therapy is available overseas, but as it is a new concept, it is very expensive. Through the program with the Malaghan Institute, Freemasons are hopeful that this highly successful therapy will be more accessible, at a substantially reduced cost, and to broaden the range of those who might benefit.