Read the latest news from the Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust.

International Clinical Trials Day

Monday 20th May was International clinical trials day and observes the first clinical trial in 1747 by surgeon James Lind on the HMS Salisbury Royal Navy ship.         

The Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust acknowledges and pays tribute to all the wāhine who have taken part in all of our Waikato clinical trials over the last 22 years. Clinical trial research helps find new treatments for people, not only in the Waikato and New Zealand, but all around the world! Without the courage and bravery of those who participate, clinical research would not be possible! THANK YOU to all our amazing research and clinical trial participants!

All the major advances in controlling breast cancer have been the result of clinical trials research. Clinical Trials Day is also a time to recognize the people who conduct clinical trials and to say “thanks” for what they do every day to improve public health. This day of celebration also provides our community with a unique opportunity to raise awareness of clinical trials – and of clinical research as a career option among the greater public.

Breast cancer is not just one disease; there are many different types and stages, all of which need different treatments. We must “never let it rest” and continue to drive our research efforts to achieve the BEST for Waikato and New Zealand women and men diagnosed with breast cancer. Clinical trials mean better outcomes and evidence based best treatments and procedures.

#Goodbetterbest #Neverletitrest

Welcome to Jenny

Jen takes up the role in marketing and fundraising to raise awareness in the Waikato of the work we do, the funds needed and how research is undertaken by Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust as well as sharing the story of our yellow button.

Welcome Jen!

Why the yellow button?

The Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust uses a yellow button to symbolise holding lives together through evidence-based breast cancer clinical trials.

Just as a shirt would fall apart without buttons, without the hope that our research gives, so to would the lives of thousands of women diagnosed with breast cancer. The yellow-on-black signifies light streaming through darkness.

Showcasing at the Waikato Wellbeing Show 2019

A very special thank you to our amazing team of volunteers who helped on our Wellbeing Show at Claudelands Event Centre last month. As well as displaying our great range of merchandise, the show provided a great opportunity to raise awareness of how the WBCRT enables clinical trials to improve treatments and outcomes for women diagnosed with breast cancer in the Waikato as well as making people aware of the Waikato Breast Cancer Register. The register enables the audit of outcomes for Waikato women against national and international standards and with the register data we are able to suggest further research to help us always do better.

Heather Flay (WBCRT Research Nurse) explains why her personal experience and passion turned her vocation to be a breast cancer research nurse.

Heather has a particular passion for oncology because her mother, grandmother, an aunt and uncle, two cousins and herself have been directly touched with cancer.  Heather is a registered nurse and has experience in mental health, inpatient haematology, oncology and palliative care. Her role with the WBCRT is coordinating international clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. She has journeyed alongside many cancer patients, and it is from this experience that she tasks herself to make a difference with women who have a diagnosis of breast cancer.

“Having a mother go through cancer and my own cancer diagnosis several years ago, has given me an understanding of what people go through when diagnosed. Knowing the impact of cancer on people’s lives, I now like to live life to the full. In my spare time, I enjoy walking or jogging around different areas of New Zealand, kayaking, hanging out with grandchildren and developing a pleasurable garden with my partner Lee”, said Heather.

A trial participants journey

My story started with a routine mammogram in 2011 that picked up cancer tumours in my right breast.  The tumours were removed as were 35 lymph nodes from my right armpit. I came through the chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment reasonably unscathed and felt like I had dodged a bullet.

It wasn’t until 5 ½ years later that I developed lymphoedema. My right arm had swelled up five times the size of my left arm.  The main treatment available to me is to wear a compression sleeve 24 hours a day for the rest of my life.  Wearing the sleeve over the hot summer has been uncomfortable to say the least.  Random people ask me what happened to my arm so I tell them I was bitten by a snake.  That usually shuts them up. Last winter my long sleeved tops would fit my left arm but not the right which caused a wardrobe nightmare.

I heard about the lymph node grafting trial and was eager to be part of it.  I was accepted as a participant and had the minor surgical procedure.  18 months later the swelling in my arm has reduced by two thirds and I now fit my clothes again.  If the outcome for me is that I can stop wearing the compression sleeve then I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.

I would highly recommend the lymph node grafting trial to other women with lymphedema, as it has given me hope for a normal future.

Welcome Annie

Annie Shewan has joined our team as PA for Dr Ian Campbell (WBCRT Chair, Breast & General Surgeon and Associate Professor), and assist with admin duties for our team. Annie comes from a strong background in administration working with the then known Telecom and more recently Te Wānganga O Te Aotearoa.

Welcome Annie!


Waikato researchers are now seeking participants with breast cancer related lymphoedema for a larger clinical trial to determine whether lymph node grafting produces a greater reduction in lymphoedema volume and improved quality of life, compared with standard treatment.

Lymphoedema is a condition experienced by 10-20% of people who undergo axillary lymph node dissection – an operation often performed as part of breast cancer surgery.  The current standard of care for lymphoedema is conservative management which includes self-administered massage, therapeutic exercise, and use of a compression garment.

When conservative management does not help enough, surgery can be considered.  There is some evidence to suggest that transferring lymph nodes from elsewhere in the body to the affected limb can help to reduce the size of the affected arm.

A new, surgical technique, called lymph node grafting, has been developed and tested in a pilot study in the Waikato. The results of the pilot study demonstrated that lymph node grafting showed promise as a treatment for moderately severe treatment-resistant lymphedema.

Local researchers need further evidence to be certain that this technique is safe and effective, and to standardise and develop the lymph node grafting technique further.  In both the pilot study, and to date in the clinical trial there have been some patients who have experienced a reduction in lymphoedema, but also some who have not.  We need to learn more about why this is the case. We also need to ensure that lymph node grafting doesn’t make lymphoedema of the arm worse, and doesn’t lead to lymphoedema of the donor leg.

Participants who agree to participate will be randomly assigned to either:

  • the control group (standard care): Will receive standard lymphoedema therapy alone. This includes self-administered massage, therapeutic exercise, use of a compression sleeve and skin/nail care; OR
  • the intervention group: Will undergo lymph node grafting surgery as well as standard lymphoedema therapy.

Waikato Plastic Surgeon Mr Winston McEwan who has developed the lymph node grafting technique, is heading this trial.

For more information, or if you or anyone you know  may be interested in this research, please contact Heather Flay, Research Nurse on telephone 07 8398726 Ext 97960 or email; or Jenni Scarlet, Research Nurse on phone 07 8398726 Ext 97916 or email

To our valued supporters, sponsors, volunteers, family and friends

A very big thank you to those who dig deep to help in so many ways small and large.

For being a; fundraising host, bucket shaker, donor, helper at events, a kind ear, or a supporter extraordinaire.We are very grateful to each and everyone of you. Thank you for  being a BrEaST friend and helping us “never let it rest”!

When we all work for a great cause, we all win!

Our Christmas message to you

The team at Waikato Breast Cancer Research Trust thank you for the wonderful support you have given over this year to enable the road of hope through research trials and projects.

We send our very best wishes to you and your family to share the spirit of Christmas, and abundant health and happiness for the coming year.

The better we understand it, the BEST we can fight it.