Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in New Zealand women. Māori women have a high incidence of breast cancer – one of the highest rates in the world. Cancer outcomes are also of concern, with New Zealand having poorer outcomes compared with the outcomes for women in Australia.

Māori women have about twice the death rate from breast cancer as compared with New Zealand European women. Pacifica women also have higher rates of breast cancer, are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age, with more aggressive types of cancer and are more likely to die from their breast cancer.

The team have were responsible for a major study funded by Health Research Council entitled “Improving outcomes from breast cancer in New Zealand women.”  As well as yielding a number of publications, the study supported two PhD scholarships – one through the University of Waikato and one through the University of Auckland.

Since then there have been two further key projects which are being led by Dr Chunhuan Lao

  1. Costs of Breast Cancer in NZ (funded by HRC partnership with Breast Cancer Foundation)
  2. Variations in the management and outcomes of women with metastatic breast cancer (funded by Breast Cancer Foundation)


These two projects both record linkage studies, using the Combined Breast Cancer Register, Pharmaceutical Collection (PHARMS), National Minimum Dataset, National  Non-admitted Patient Collection and Mortality collection. The purpose of the costing project is to quantify the resources used for breast cancer management in New Zealand and provide up-to-date and detailed costing data, including assessing the cost of breast cancer over time. The results of this project will inform healthcare planning such as decisions to introduce new treatment regimens and cost-effectiveness analyses of new treatments for breast cancer. The detailed comparison of resources used and costs between different ethnic groups will also guide healthcare planners for better resource allocation to reduce inequities in breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and health outcomes. The metastatic breast cancer will help us understand the variations in the management and outcomes of women with metastatic breast cancer, especially between women with de novo metastatic breast cancer and women with recurrent breast cancer. The detailed Combined Breast Cancer Register data will allow us to understand the impact of treatment accounting for differences in age, ethnicity, biomarker type, sites of metastases, comorbidities, etc.

Project partners

The University Of University, Waikato Medical Research Centre works closely with University of Auckland Professor Ian Campbell on breast cancer research.  Its funding has been principally through the Health Research Council, Waikato Breast Cancer Trust and the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Recent publications