A 72-year-old Russell woman is leading the Far North's contribution to a global cause by walking her way to better health and raising money for cancer research.
Dianne Wynyard is raising funds for the Hawaiian Women's Cancer Challenge, supported by the property group Hawaiian, to help deliver world-class medical research that can save and change lives.
Researchers at the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research, in Perth, are part of a global effort to use genetic analysis similar in style to Covid-19 efforts to fight cancers that affect one woman in seven.
Wynyard, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, said 'the walk' can change and save lives.
"It's such a wonderful cause, and I couldn't think of any more worthwhile reason to get my feet walking," she said.
"As a by-product of this I have already improved my health considerably. I have clots on my lungs from radiation, and did have a lot of trouble breathing, but because of my walking I now have little trouble or bother at all.
"Anybody who wants to improve their health and help a good cause along the way - get off the couch, get your shoes on and get out there on the path."
She had been humbled by the support she had received from her local community as she has built up her regular walks from small beginnings to more than 20km.
She will walk 35km in her home town on Saturday week (September 26), and, along with her daughter, had at last report, raised more than $15,000 for the Perkins Institute.
"I'm extremely fortunate to live in a small town, and the local support has been overwhelming," she said.
"I get lots of hellos and waves, people asking me how many steps or kilometres I have done, car horns toot and the town has got behind me financially as well."
The Women's Cancer Challenge will help pioneering global research aimed at identifying genomic profiles of tumours in individual patients that will lead to better treatment. Perkins' co-ordinator of translational cancer research, Dr Louise Winteringham, who grew up in New Zealand, said the Women's Cancer Challenge could make "so much difference," because the research was complex, expensive, and it took time to make life[-changing laboratory discoveries.
"We are making great progress, studying tumours in a very in-depth manner," she said.
"As we build our patient databases and review cancer genomes, we can get closer to delivering drugs that provide better treatment of currently difficult-to-treat cancers. There are still some extremely aggressive forms of breast cancer where we don't understand the gene profile.
"There is currently no easy test for ovarian cancer. Too often women have only minor symptoms, and it is often too late when cancer is detected. We urgently need more research with ovarian cancer patients to move closer to developing a simple blood test that would change the abysmal outcomes that currently exist for many women.
"We're delighted that Dianne is so passionate about making a difference," she added.
"When Australians and New Zealanders work together we always see fabulous results. All funds raised will help in our global fight against this insidious disease."
Dr Winteringham said Covid-19 had shown how important medical research could be, and the public now had a better understanding of the positive role it could play.
"Just as people can see the importance of understanding how the virus works and the importance of contact tracing, for the work we do it is so important to understand the genetic makeup of tumours so we can steadily build towards better treatments," she added.
The Perkins Institute was investigating the development of innovative new treatments for cancers that did not respond to conventional medicines, such as triple negative breast cancer and serious ovarian cancer.
The 2020 Challenge will take place over seven days to represent the one in seven women diagnosed with breast cancer. Participants can choose to walk a few kilometres each day from this Sunday or 35km on Saturday week. For more information go to www.walkforwomenscancer.org.au