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72-year-old NZ cancer survivor walking towards a cure

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A 72-year-old New Zealand woman has captured the hearts of the town of Russell in the Bay of Islands, walking her way to better health and raising money for cancer research.

 Dianne Wynyard is raising funds for the Hawaiian Women’s Cancer Challenge supported by property group Hawaiian, to help deliver world class medical research that can save and change lives.

Researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research in Perth are part of a global effort to use genetic analysis similar in style to COVID-19 efforts to fight women’s cancers which affect 1 in 7 women.

Wynyard was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and says the Walk can change and save lives.

"It’s such a wonderful cause and I couldn’t think of any more worthwhile reason to get my feet walking. As a by-product of this I have already improved my health considerably. "I have clots on my lungs from radiation and did have a lot of trouble breathing but because of my walking I now have little trouble or bother at all. "Anybody who wants to improve their health and help a good cause along the way - get off the couch, get your shoes on and get out there on the path."

Dianne has been humbled by the support she has received from her local community in Russell in the Bay of Islands as she has built up her regular walks from small beginnings to more than 20km.

Dianne will walk 35km in her hometown on September 26 and has so far, along with her daughter, raised more than $15,000 for The Perkins. "I’m extremely fortunate to live in a small town and the local support has been overwhelming. I get lots of hellos and waves, people asking me how many steps or kilometres I have done, car horns toot and the town has got behind me financially as well," Dianne said.

The Women’s Cancer Challenge, supported by property group Hawaiian, will help pioneering global research similar in style to COVID-19 efforts to fight women’s cancers which affect 1 in 7 women.

Researchers believe identifying genomic profiles of tumours in individual patients will lead to better treatment for patients.

Perkins Coordinator of Translational Cancer Research Dr Louise Winteringham, who grew up in New Zealand, says the Women’s Cancer Challenge can make so much difference because the research is complex, expensive and takes time to make life changing lab discoveries.

"We are making great progress studying tumours in a very in-depth manner," Winteringham said.

"As we build our patient databases and review cancer genomes, we can get closer to delivering drugs that provide better treatment of currently difficult to treat cancers.

"There are still some extremely aggressive forms of breast cancer where we don’t understand the gene profile of these cancers which are very nasty.

"For ovarian cancer, there is currently no easy test for it and too often women have only minor symptoms and it is often too late when cancer is detected. We urgently need more research with ovarian cancer patients to move closer to developing a simple blood test which would change the abysmal outcomes that currently exist for many women.

"We’re so delighted Dianne is so passionate about making a difference. When Australians and New Zealanders work together, we always see fabulous results. All funds raised will help in our global fight against this insidious disease."

Dr Winteringham says COVID-19 has shown how important medical research can be and the public now has a better understanding of the positive role it can play.

"Just as people can see the importance of understanding how the virus works and the importance of contact tracing, for the work we do it is so important to understand the genetic makeup of tumours so we can steadily build towards better treatments."

The Perkins is investigating the development of innovative new treatments for the cancers that don’t respond to conventional medicines, such as triple negative breast cancer and serious ovarian cancer. The 2020 Challenge will be conducted over 7 days to represent the 1 in 7 women diagnosed with breast cancer. Participants can choose to walk a few kilometres each day from September 20 or walk 35km on Saturday 26 September.

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