The Freemasons CAR T-cell Research Programme

Freemasons New Zealand is proud to announce a further $600,000 dollar contribution to the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research over three years, in addition to the $600,000 already provided previously, making a total of $1.2 million over five years. The donation will help Malaghan carry out clinical trials on CAR T-cell therapy, a means of treating several types of blood cancer.

CAR T-cell therapy is a form of treatment that involves taking blood from the patient’s body and reprogramming specific cells to recognise cancer. The process itself takes about 21 days to complete and ends with the treated blood being injected back into the patient.

“We hope that bringing this new type of treatment to New Zealand in a clinical trial can accelerate the adoption of other CAR T-cell therapies for all New Zealanders.”

Human immunology lab Clinical Director, Dr Robert Weinkove, says CAR T-cells are an emerging type of treatment for cancer, and their potential is only just beginning to be understood.

“By re-programming immune cells, we can fight cancer in more precise and targeted ways in situations where existing treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are no longer an option,” Dr Weinkove says.

Trials of this therapy – where the T-cells are genetically modified, and then administered back into body to identify and attack cancer cells – have seen remission rates of more than 80 per cent for some blood cancers.

However these are early days when it comes to what this research may result in.

“It is likely that as the technology develops worldwide it will expand to treat other forms and classes of cancer; this is a goal for our CAR T-cell research programme.”

Everyone is affected by cancer in some form or another, Grand Master Graham Wrigley says, which is why the Freemasons are more than happy to support the Institute.

After all, Freemasons was founded on charitable principles, he says.

“Our ethos fits well with theirs; looking after the people who can’t look after themselves.”

For more information on the programme visit Malaghans website

CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials: A New Zealand first