National | Cancer

Cancer researcher merging te ao Māori and Western ideals to better health outcomes for Māori

The NZ Cancer Society and Hei Āhuru Mōwai – Māori Cancer Research Leadership Aotearoa are providing their tautoko to researcher Danielle Sword.

Sword is merging mātauranga Māori and western perspectives with a design to help improve health outcomes for Māori dealing with cancer.

A cancer immunotherapy, CAR T-cell therapy involves genetic engineering a patient’s immune cells to recognise cancer cells, attack and eliminate them. However, it’s limited in how it caters to Māori patients, as well as being unable to ensure the cancer cells are permanently eradicated.

It’s Sword's research into investigating a te ao Māori perspective on CAR T-cell therapy from the perspectives of patient and researcher, that earned her the Māori Cancer Research Award.

Attending a few tangihanga in her whānau, with cancer the cause of death, it drove Sword to understand cancer better, and how she could make a difference through her research for her whānau and people.

“It’s the inequitable outcomes that Māori face – it’s not on. And I’m aware of the fact that there aren’t many Māori in this space, and it would be great to see that growing in terms of research.”

Sword believes that better health outcomes for Māori lie within te ao Māori but says most Māori do not get to use their voice to be part of the solution.

“For me it’s important to have our whānau Māori voice when it comes to cancer treatment, recovery or any part of that process.

“I would hope that for our whānau with cancer, we would not only see better outcomes from this type of research but I would also hope that when it becomes a routine treatment for whānau who want to seek treatment for cancer, their experience will be appropriate, safe and tika.”

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