8:10: Vinod Balachandran: mRNA vaccine to treat pancreatic cancer

New treatments for pancreatic cancer are urgently needed. One of the deadliest forms of the disease, even with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, just 12% of patients are alive five years after diagnosis.

Yet, results from a small study published recently suggest that bespoke messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines that prime a patient's immune system to fight their cancer might be an effective future option.

Half the patients showed a strong immune response to vaccination, and their tumours haven’t  reappeared after a median follow-up period of 18 months.

Dr Vinod Balachandran, a surgical oncologist based at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York heads the lab that ran the study.

Assistant Attaending Dep't of Surgery-Hepatobiliary Service

Dr. Vinod Balachandran Photo: Ethan Kavet


8.30 Stewart Lansley: finally time for the universal basic income? 

Author Stewart Lansley

Author Stewart Lansley Photo: Stewart Lansley

Proposed in the UK is a trial that would see 30 people paid an unconditional sum of about NZ$3295 a month for two years to see what effect it has on their mental and physical health. An equivalent scheme is already running in Wales. 

The idea of a universal basic income (UBI) is not new, but is gaining momentum following the economic disruption of Covid and cost of living concerns. 

Economist Stewart Lansley has published extensively on the UBI. A visiting fellow at the School of Policy Studies, University of Bristol, his latest book is The Richer, The Poorer - How Britain Enriched the Few and Failed the Poor. A 200-Year History

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Photo: 123rf

9:05 Margaret Meyer: the stories behind the UK’s deadliest witch-hunt

When UK based New Zealand writer Margaret Meyer visited a local museum in the town of Aldeburgh, Suffolk, it sent her on a mission to uncover the story of a group of women accused of being witches, and the men who hunted them. 

A small display about the East Anglian witch-hunts 1645 - 1647 revealed more than 200 lives were lost, all innocent.

Margaret Meyer’s debut novel, The Witching Tide is inspired by these, England’s deadliest witch-hunts, and considers what it takes for men to become such a danger to women.

The Witching Tide by author Margaret Meyer

Photo: Simon & Schuster/Andi Sapey


9.30   Prof Philippa Gander: sleeping in line with our rotating planet

Chronobiologist Professor Emeritus Philippa Gander spends her waking hours researching the optimal conditions for sleep. She’s studied horseshoe crabs, hibernating squirrels, jet-lagged pilots and space station astronauts.

An internationally recognised scholar of circadian rhythms, Gander was the inaugural director of the Sleep/Wake Research Centre at Massey University and in 2017 was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the study of sleep and fatigue.

In her book Night Owls and Early Birds Gander explores how artificial light and shift work impact sleep cycles and how Earth’s rotation shapes our biology.

Night Owls and Early Birds by author Phillipa Gander

Photo: Auckland University Press/Julian Ward


10.05 Kiwa Hammond: reviving Moriori culture as ancestral remains return

Kiwa Hammond plays the kōauau (Māori flute) at the ceremony

Kiwa Hammond plays the kōauau (Māori flute) at the ceremony Photo: Peter Heller

This month Kiwa Hammond has been part of an Aotearoa contingent in Germany to retrieve skeletal remains of karapuna, Tā Imi Moriori ancestors of Rēkohu (the Chatham Islands) and Māori tipuna from various institutions and museums. Since June 1 there have been seven ceremonies in six locations.  

These ancestors had been unceremoniously dug up by colonisers for science and to be traded as curiosities, often illegally.

A leader in the revival of the Moriori language and customs, as well as Te Reo Māori,  Hammond (Ngāti Kahungunu o Te Wairoa, Ngāti Ruapani, Rongowhakaata, Moriori, English, Irish, Scottish) only learnt of his Moriori roots 25 years ago. 

Kiwa Hammond with rōpū address their tīpuna at the public ceremony

Kiwa Hammond with rōpū address their tīpuna at the public ceremony Photo: Peter Heller


10:40 Hayden Tee: the extra-ordinary director of Next to Normal 

Director of musical "Next to Normal"

Director of musical "Next to Normal" Photo: Kurt Sneddon

Mental illness may seem an unlikely subject for a musical, but in the US Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt’s Next to Normal has won not only Tony Awards but a Pulitzer Prize. The rock musical centres on a family coping with a mother suffering a worsening bipolar disorder. 

Director of its Christchurch production Hayden Tee (Ngati Kahungunu, Takatāpui) considers it one of the great musicals. 

Tee is one of our most successful musical theatre exports. He’s worked on Broadway and the West End but is also, now as a director and chair of Te Manu Tioriori Trust, passionate about the development of original musical theatre in Aotearoa. 

Next to Normal opens at The Court Theatre June 17.

Joel Granger, Juliet Reynolds-Midgely and Juan Jackson in rehearsals at The Court for Next to Normal.

Joel Granger, Juliet Reynolds-Midgely and Juan Jackson in rehearsals at The Court for Next to Normal. Photo: supplied


11:05 Kevin Morby: finding songs in family photo albums

Kevin Morby

Photo: supplied

Celebrated American singer songwriter Kevin Morby recently launched the website thisisaphotograph.com where he encourages you to learn to play his song of the same name and then upload your own version, inspired by your own family photo album.

Morby released his seventh studio album This is a Photograph last year but has also recently released a companion album titled More Photographs (A Continuum), a collection of new songs and new versions of songs from the original album.

Morby plays Auckland and Wellington in September.


11.40 Prof Matt Baker: kitty contraception, flying DNA and brain-body bridges

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Photo: Supplied

Matt Baker returns for a chat about some of the latest science news.

This week: why a single shot of gene therapy may replace surgical sterilisation for cats, how accidentally collected airborne DNA offer a biodiversity snapshot, and a new brain–spine interface that has digitally bypassed a spinal cord injury, allowing a tetraplegic to walk.

Dr Baker is Scientia Associate Professor in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Science at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

A tabby cat resting on the keys of a piano.

This week we follow our feline friends. Photo: www.wfmt.com


Books featured on this show:

The Richer, The Poorer - How Britain Enriched the Few and Failed the Poor. A 200-Year History
By Stewart Lansley
Publisher: University of Bristol Press
ISBN: 9781447363217

The Witching Tide
By Margaret Meyer
Publisher: Moa Press
ISBN: 9781869715250

Night Owls and Early Birds - Rhythms of Life on a Rotating Planet
By Phillipa Gander
Publisher: Auckland University Press
ISBN: 9781869409784


Music featured on this show:

Who's Crazy/ My Psychopharmacologist and I
Next to Normal original Broadway cast
Played at 10.35am

This is a Photograph (Salvation Choir version)
Kevin Morby
Played at 11.05am

Five Easy Pieces (Revised)
Kevin Morby
Played at 11.35am