Home' The Wellingtonian : January 19th 2012 Contents 14 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JANUARY 19, 2012
Johnsonville Library --
where will it be and
how will it look?
Consultation has now begun on the Johnsonville Library
expansion, and we want to know what you think.
Following that, the preferred option will be put forward
for consideration in next year's Long Term Plan (how we
will spend Council money over the next 10 years).
Pick up a consultation document from your local library
and get your feedback to us by Thursday 16 February 2012.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or phone Jaime Dyhrberg on 499 4444.
04 234 7632
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By KATIE McALISTER
Making progress: Professor Swee Tan, whose team has had
encouraging results researching strawberry birthmarks.
Photo: KATIE McALISTER
Wellington plastic surgeon Pro-
fessor Swee Tan and his team
are planning to set up a labora-
tory for strawberry birthmark
and cancer research at Victoria
University this year.
Dr Tan, director of surgery at
Hutt Hospital, is also the direc-
tor of the Gillies McIndoe
The institute comprises a
group of people using facilities
around Wellington to conduct
research into strawberry birth-
marks, cancer and tissue
Strawberry birthmarks, or
infantile haemangioma, were
tumours that occurred in one in
10 children, said Dr Tan. About
10 per cent of cases were life-
threatening and about 25 per
cent of cases required some form
If the tumour was in the liver,
children could suffer heart fail-
ure. If it was around the airway
they would not be able to
breathe and if it was in the eye
socket they could go blind, said
The cause of strawberry birth-
marks was unknown and
treatments had included sur-
gery, radiotherapy, high doses of
steroids, and chemotherapy.
Dr Tan said he became
interested in vascular birth-
marks while undertaking a fel-
lowship at Harvard in 1995.
Returning to New Zealand in
1996, he began a PhD at Otago
University aimed at finding the
cause of such tumours.
We have discovered that
stem cells from the placenta
travel to the foetus and they're
lodged somewhere where they
take hold, multiply and are
made into a tumour,'' said Dr
The drug propranalol, used to
treat high blood pressure, could
cause the tumours to undergo
cell suicide, he said. About 50
children have been treated with
the drug since 2008.
What this does is it bypasses
everything we'd done for the last
100 years. And just imagine that
you can do this to cancer.
One day we're not going to do
surgery. One day we're not going
to do radiotherapy. One day
we're not going to do chemo-
therapy, we're going to give
medication by mouth.''
Another implication of the dis-
covery was that the primitive
stem cells from the placenta
could be made into different
types of cells in the body, such as
red blood cells, he said.
research applying the know-
ledge that we've got in a number
of cancers, particularly ones
around the head, inside the
mouth and throat.''
Dr Tan's team includes Dr
Darren Day, a scientist at Vic-
toria University, Dr Helen
Brasch, a pathologist at Hutt
Hospital and Tinte Itinteang, a
PhD student. Dr Philip Leadbit-
ter, a paediatrician, has treated
a lot of the patients.
Dr Tan's team is now
conducting the first clinical trial
of a new medication, captopril,
for treating strawberry birth-
We are showing that it works
quite dramatically as well,'' he
He said it didn't lower blood
pressure and his team predicted
it might be more specific than
We always need to think
about a better way of doing
things and that's what research
is all about.''
Dr Tan was a semi-finalist in
the 2012 Kiwibank New Zea-
lander of the Year awards for his
research into strawberry
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