A Research Reflection from Professor Andrew Shelling

Breast Cancer Cure has been an important funder of research over the past 25 years and has plugged a major gap in breast cancer research in New Zealand. Some of the early studies funded have had a long legacy, often providing resources, data and researcher support that is still going. 

Some researchers have been drawn into and stayed in the breast cancer area, as there was some confidence in ongoing support. Research sometimes needs to be seen more as an investment and the best returns on investment often take some time. Most of the research that Breast Cancer Cure has funded has been translational research, that is, a movement of ideas from the clinic to laboratory and back again. Most of us believe that is the best form of successful research, the clinic provides the most important questions and the laboratory provides solutions that can then move back to improve patient outcomes.

Breast Cancer Cure has funded a number of important research projects over the years, often reflecting current international research trends to provide New Zealand specific data that has an increasing impact on our community. We can’t just rely on importing international data, and we have an obligation under Te Tiriti o Waitangi to protect the rights, interests and taonga of Māori people. Failure to include Māori and Pasifika groups in medical research will lead to further inequities, and there is an increasing view that we need to prioritise research on Māori and Pasifika patients and whanau to improve overall cancer outcomes in New Zealand. 

We also need to see research becoming more impactful and providing direct benefit to the patient community we serve, and increasingly look to include patient and community views in the setting and prioritisation of our research, with the real expectation that research outcomes will lead to direct patient benefit or generation of new knowledge that with time have benefit.  We also need to develop an enduring workforce of breast cancer researchers within New Zealand, there are lots of challenges for nurturing, recruiting and retaining outstanding research talent.

Professor Andrew Shelling
University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Professor
Breast Cancer Cure Board Member

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