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Source: Canterbury Medical Research Foundation

Those who’ve experienced mental illness are being asked to help design health services, while the bugs in our tummies are being put under the microscope to see how they influence bowel cancer.

These are two of the eight research projects now underway thanks to $824,037 in funding announced today by the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation.

The Canterbury Medical Research Foundation’s Major Projects Grants fund a researcher to complete a major project over a two-year period, with the grant covering the cost of the researcher’s time, materials and resources.

Canterbury Medical Research Foundation Director Melissa Haberfield says investing in world-class research is critical, and the Foundation is proud to be supporting emerging talent as well as experienced researchers.

“It is a privilege to be able to financially support some of the brightest talents in our region. The research this funding enables will result in better health and wellbeing outcomes for the people of Canterbury and the world,” says Melissa.

Bowel Cancer – the gut vs the bowel

Postdoctoral fellow Dr Annika Seddon, a biochemist/cell biologist, has been granted $110,000 to study bowel cancer. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the world, with approximately 3,000 people diagnosed every year and 1,200 deaths. Canterbury has almost twice the national average with 113 cancers found per 100,000 people compared to a national average of 65.7.

Annika says there is mounting evidence to suggest gut bacteria and inflammation play a role in bowel cancer. This research will investigate if compounds produced by gut bacteria enhance production of oxidants in immune cells and how these oxidants change chemical signatures on the DNA of bowel cancer cells that affect their function.

“We hope this research will lead to new strategies for preventing or slowing the progression of this devastating disease. The ultimate goal is to save lives,” says Dr Seddon.

Dr Seddon says the funding from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation is a major boost for New Zealand’s bowel cancer research.

“This research wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation. New Zealand’s incredibly high rate of bowel cancer is a major health concern. This funding is enabling us to better understand this disease in a New Zealand context, which will have a major impact on prevention and treatment.”

Mental Health – user-designed services

Dr Kaaren Mathias is a senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury and an expert on public health. She has been granted $109,557 to research how those with mental distress (tangata whaiora) and local communities co-design mental health services.

Dr Mathias says for decades professionals have designed mental health services with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach that has not met the needs of tangata whaiora/those in mental distress.

“There are so many negative stories about mental health, but there are all sorts of strengths in communities we can build on. I’m fascinated by how the resources that are already within communities can be used to promote mental health.”

Dr Mathias says the recent health system reforms identified the importance of participation of tangata whaiora and local communities in designing, delivering and evaluating services, yet there is little information about how this will happen or how it will improve the quality and equity of care.

As part of this research project Dr Mathias’ team will talk to people who use and deliver mental health care on the West Coast and in Canterbury.

“Thanks to this funding from the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation we hope to discover new ways of delivering mental health services, guide others in how to increase participation in service delivery and increase the quality and relevance of mental health care for all.”

Other recipients of the Canterbury Medical Research Foundation’s Major Projects Grants are:

Oliver Lyons, granted $90,902 for research into reducing the incidence of strokes during keyhole heart surgery.
Dr Martina Paumann-Page granted $110,000 for her research into new strategies to reduce cancer cell invasion.
Dr Michael Currie granted $110,00 to research new treatments for antimicrobial- resistant bacteria (superbugs).
Dr Michael Maze granted $73,586 for his research into pleural infection.
Dr Ruqayya Sulaiman-Hill granted $109,000 to advance her work on the

psychological impact of traumatic events.

Dr Christoph Goebl granted $110,000 for his research exploring novel methods

for cancer diagnosis and treatment prediction.

The Canterbury Medical Research Foundation is the largest independent not-for-profit funder of medical research in the South Island offering Canterbury-based researchers more than $1 million annually.

“Over the last 62 years, the Foundation has funded more than $32 million of health research. This incredible investment in the health and wellbeing of our community is made possible thanks to our loyal supporters, donors and members whose gifts enable world-class research to take place, leaving a lasting legacy for future generations,” says Melissa Haberfield.