Enhancing the body’s natural immune system to fight diseases such as cancer, is one of the aims of research being conducted at the Malaghan Institute, Club members learned this week.
Dr Kjesten Wiig spoke to us on 26 October. John Bishop reports.

The Institute’s Dr Kirsten Wiij told this week’s meeting that she is focussing on immunology: “if we understand how the immune system works, then we can create new treatments. We can use the immune system to treat our own bodies. “What’s desirable would be a gentler treatment than chemotherapy.”

“What we are trying to do is to take out blood cells from the body, inject receptors to battle cancer and then re-inject the cells back into the body so they battle cancer.” We aren’t there, but the future is bright, she said.

Originally from the Hawke’s Bay she got a PhD from Otago in neuroscience and did post-doctoral work at Brown University and MIT but felt “called back to New Zealand” ten years ago when she was offered a position in MBIE as Director Innovative Partnerships working with international R&D companies. “I am glad I did.” Her son Karl “was diagnosed with an inoperable, incurable cancer,” which turned her work focus to cancer research, and she took up her position at the Malaghan in February this year. “My son would be proud of me,” she said.