Freemasons’ Fellowship funds cancer study



Former Air New Zealand air hostess, Dr Melanie Grant sometimes has to remind herself how far she has come in her “fourth career”, that of helping with research into innovative childhood brain cancer treatment in the United States.

“Some days I kind of go, ‘Wow, I get to do this. It’s me!’ she told Otago Daily Times newspaper journalist, John Gibb.  “If someone had told this to the 16-year-old me, the 16-year-old me wouldn’t have believed it.”

Born in Auckland, Melanie grew up in Christchurch, and enjoyed her first career as an air hostess (1992-2001).  She next worked in a small business with her husband, Darryl, until 2005, before taking on her third career role as a natural nutritionist.  By 2016, working long hours, she had completed her PhD.  Melanie now holds a University of Otago doctorate in T-cell immunotherapy and is undertaking post-doctoral work at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington DC, in the United States.


John Dennison (for the OMCT) is pictured with Freemasons’  Oncology Fellowship Committee members Les Brenssell (Secretary), Fellowship recipient Dr Melanie GrantJohn Steele (Chairman) and Alistair Cowan (Treasurer).


Freemasons helping to fund Dr Melanie Grant to study how to heal little chaps like this, makes us all winners.



On a return trip to Dunedin she explained, “I work with a team of clinicians and researchers who are trying to find new and less toxic treatments for children with brain and central nervous system tumours.” 

She said, “Our bodies are equipped with the best cancer-killing equipment on the planet, our immune system.”  The problem is, unfortunately, that cancer finds ways to ‘’subvert or get around’’ a human’s immune system’s responses, but she described how she was helping to find ways to switch the body’s anti-cancer response back on.  Thus, since last November, she had been part of the US medical centre’s “first-in-human clinical trial,” infusing specially boosted and ‘trained’ T-cells (part of the body’s natural immune system), back into host children and young people with brain tumours.  She said it was ‘’very early days”, but that the initial treatment results were “very encouraging.”

Although this is an amazing story, she might never have got this far, as Dr Grant recalled the potentially disastrous situation she faced when, having gone to Otago University as an adult student in 2008, and having successfully completed a first biomedical science degree, she then discovered that she did not qualify for any university scholarship support to undertake the PhD studies that she longed to complete.

That was when the Freemasons’ Southern Oncology Fellowship stepped in.

Dr Grant praised the Freemasons’ fellowship body, that had “backed me to the hilt,” providing more than $100,000 in PhD study funding for a 40-year-old “re-tread” who had returned to university to retrain for her fourth career.

The Freemasons in the south of New Zealand are certain that it will be money well spent, Dr Grant.

 Source: Otago Daily Times

Source: Children’s National Medical Centre, Washington DC

ODT Reporter: John Gibb

Additional material: John Wren-Potter

















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