Our Executive Officer, Liam Willis, recently presented at the latest Gastro-Intestinal Special Interest Group (GISIG) summit.

GISIG members include medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, registrars, cancer nurses, and researchers who are specialists in the field of gut cancer treatment. The group meets to discuss the latest in treatment options and clinical trials, discuss and share best practice, and ensure participants are up to speed with the latest in global advances in the treatment of cancers of the digestive system.

Thanks to the generosity of our supporters, GCF provided funding that enabled 3 members of the group to attend the latest summit. One recipient, Dr Nuala Helsby, said “Unfortunately scientists do not get any continuing medical education (CME) funding. So without philanthropic support, it is very difficult to find the money to cover registration and travel costs to attend scientific meetings”. Amongst other things, Dr Helsby was at the summit to introduce her THYmine2 research funded thanks to the generosity of GCF supporters. She continued, “I was very excited to be able to talk to a wider group. I feel very privileged as a scientist to be able to have these interactions and build personal relationships with clinicians to try to make sure the research has an appropriate real-world context”.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner Kirsten Wagteveld also received funding to attend the summit and describes the impact attending such ongoing education has for nurses in her position…

“As nurse practitioners, we have undergone advanced training to upskill in medical knowledge and expertise. Because of this, we are able to work independently as part of the wider medical/nursing team, assessing and managing patients. This includes clinical assessment, requesting investigations such as blood tests and scans, diagnosing and prescribing medications including chemotherapy. Whilst our training includes basic medical skills and knowledge and more advanced knowledge of oncology, it does not include the more specialized knowledge specific to each tumour stream, thus we have to make the most of any learning opportunities that are made available to us.

Nurse practitioners do not have access to the same funding that our medical colleagues do. As a nurse practitioner working in the GI cancer stream, I have been fortunate to have very supportive medical colleagues who have participated in my education. All of oncology is a rapidly evolving field of medicine with a vast number of clinical trials and scientific research that changes treatment strategies and patient outcomes. Keeping abreast of this evidence enables me to support my patients with information and decision making. It is an essential part of my practice. I very much appreciated the support to attend the GI SIG summit. This meeting helps place emerging treatment strategies within the context of the New Zealand health system and the challenges we face.”

GCF EO Willis said, “I am delighted that our wonderful donors have allowed GCF to support our clinician and researcher community in this way. We are all working towards the same goals of increasing survival rates, life expectancy and quality of life for New Zealanders with a gut cancer, so having the chance to talk with and listen to this inspiring group is hugely beneficial for GCF.  I look forward to deepening our links and further supporting this group who are without doubt some of the brightest minds in New Zealand”.

This March over 630 Kiwis signed up to GIVE IT UP for gut cancer, with participants giving up either sugar, alcohol, or the sofa for the entire month.

The GIVE IT UP campaign was created to raise vital funds to find better ways to detect, diagnose and treat gut cancers and raise awareness that reducing obesity, alcohol intake, and increasing exercise can all help reduce the risk of developing them. On both counts, the campaign was hugely successful.

We are incredibly grateful to all those who participated in the campaign and everyone that supported their friends and family so generously so that we could reach our goal of raising $100,000. We are particularly grateful to our wonderful partners at Turners Automotive Group Limited. Turner’s staff across the country raised in excess of $24,000 with the company going above and beyond by matching the first $20,000 raised! Thank you to everyone at Turners for your amazing support.

We were lucky to have the dedicated support of campaign partners, nutritionist Sean Robertson (4 Wheels of Health), and personal trainer Aviv Jones. With their expert guidance, our amazing GIVE IT UP team kicked their habits into touch in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. GCF Executive Officer Liam Willis said, “one of the most rewarding aspects of the campaign was seeing our amazing supporters go through genuine lifestyle changes. These changes had a profound impact on their quality of life and will also help reduce the risk of developing gut cancers if they remain in place”.

GIVE IT UP participant Wendy Zerjal said “Although I started out to just give up sugar, bit by bit, I’ve started to reform some other habits too. I’ve changed where and when we shop, cooking from fresh, playing with new recipes, getting more exercise, getting more involved in some community activities, like yoga, healthy living classes, and painting. As the sunshine hours lessen I sometimes feel a bit down, but not this year. I’m so pleased I’m doing this, and it’s good to know that it’s for such a good cause outside of my personal benefit. Makes it that much more meaningful.”


This March, the Gut Cancer Foundation (GCF) is addressing these statistics by asking New Zealand to ‘GIVE IT UP’ for gut cancers. Kiwis around the country are being asked to give up alcohol, sugar or the sofa for the month of March with the aim of fundraising to help researchers find new ways to detect, treat and beat these cancers

But the GIVE IT UP campaign is about more than just raising funds for research, as important as that is. Executive Officer, Liam Willis, says, “Research has shown that obesity and excessive alcohol consumption are two factors which greatly increase the risk of developing a gut cancer. Research also suggests regular exercise could help reduce the chances of developing these diseases. Asking New Zealanders to raise money for research, whilst helping to reduce their own risks makes perfect sense.”

Anyone taking part in the GIVE IT UP challenge will be supported with tips and advice from the team at 4 Wheels of Health, the science based 4-week health education course created by acclaimed Kiwi chef Simon Gault and Metabolic Nutritionist, Sean Robertson.

“Gut health is one of the most fascinating and implicative areas of our health. This is your engine, and with a well-functioning engine comes a well-functioning vehicle”, said Robertson. “Spreading the message of why gut health is so important for our physical and mental wellbeing is part of why we do what we do, and why we are excited to partner with GCF and the GIVE IT UP challenge.”

If you are interested in signing up to ‘GIVE IT UP’ for gut cancer all the information you need is on https://www.giveitup.nz/