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Cancer Research Month

Research is a vital part of cancer care and is how we improve outcomes for the future. Clinical trials are how we put research into practice. They take studies from the bench to the bedside, advancing discoveries made in laboratories into treatments aiming to extend life, improve quality of life, and provide important data on new treatments to improve standard of care. They are a vital step in shifting the dial for cancers of the digestive system.

Cancer research can be complex. It can often take a number of years  to provide concrete results and for the benefits of the findings to be seen in our health systems. Because of this we can overlook the many examples of how research immediately benefits patients and the wider system along the way. For example, a specific trial may require medical teams to be upskilled on a new procedure or equipment – this provides new skills to staff and hospitals and increases care overall now. We also know that hospitals participating in clinical trials provide better quality care to all patients as the rigorous protocol and level of care required on trials ripples out to all patients. Research helps the New Zealand health system to provide new and innovative techniques and treatment options now, driving better health care solutions  regardless of outcome of trial.

Each year, with the funds raised by our incredible community, The Gut Cancer Foundation supports both local and international research in a number of ways, for a number of reasons.

International Clinical Trials
GCF has a strategic partnership with the Australasian Gastrointestinal Trials Group (AGITG). We fund New Zealand sites on AGITG studies to give Kiwis access to international trials that would otherwise not reach these shores. There are limited funding options for local researchers wanting to participate in international trials, so supporting them is an integral part of what we do.

Our clinical research community participate in AGITG trials so they can bring new and improved ways of treating gut cancers to New Zealand. Most of the time, clinical trials compare a new treatment or procedure against the standard therapy. The new treatment could be a combination of existing drugs we know work well on other cancers, or a new experimental treatment or surgical technique. Often the  drugs being used  are currently unfunded in New Zealand. Not only do these trials give Kiwis  access to treatment at an international standard of care, but they also provide important data on new and unfunded drugs in the unique demographic of the Aotearoa New Zealand population. By funding these trials we are giving Kiwi researchers the opportunity to participate in the international research community.

Local research
The research funding pool in New Zealand is limited. Researchers can apply to general funding rounds which mean competing with studies focused on conditions that affect larger groups of the population. GCF is one of the few organisations that specifically fund research focused on gut cancers often in the form of seed funding and top up funding. Seed funding helps a study get set up –allowing researchers to prove the hypothesis, safety and methodology of a study, and generate initial findings which is vital to access larger funding pools to conduct broader studies with bigger groups of the population. It is a strategic priority for GCF to support local talent. We want to nurture and retain the brightest minds here in Aotearoa and build a dedicated workforce of researchers and clinicians who want to specialise in research focused on gut cancers. By funding local research, we are ensuring that trial data reflects the unique demographics of the populations we are treating here.

Since its beginnings in 2008, the Gut Cancer Foundation has distributed or committed over $1million to 20 research studies and clinical trials across all cancers of the digestive system. Each year we aim to run an innovation granting round for local researchers as well as investing in bringing AGITG trials to New Zealand. We fund this through our incredible donor community through events such as GIVE IT UP for Gut Cancer, the Auckland Marathon, our treks and other community events. We have a number of events coming up, if you’d like to take on a challenge whilst supporting Kiwis with gut cancers into clinical trials, take a look at our offering here: https://www.gutcancer.org.nz/upcoming-events/