Māori cancer boy’s legacy lives on through his mum

, 2022-12-14 11:35:39,

Keri Topperwien with her son Chace who died in 2012 from leukaemia. She hopes her research will help increase the number of Māori bone marrow donations. Photo / Supplied

A mum who set up a charity to support whanāu who have a child with cancer has been awarded a community research grant from the Health Research Council (HRC) to explore Māori perspectives on bone marrow donation.

Keri Topperwien (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou) and her husband established the Dream Chaser Foundation following the death of their son.

Chace (Ngāti Awa, Ngāti Porou, Tūhoe) was 3 when he died in 2012 after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia, an aggressive type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

Topperwien will use the HRC Ngā Kanohi Kitea development grant to build connections and prepare to undertake kaupapa Māori research that targets opportunities for increasing the number of bone marrow donors in Aotearoa, particularly among Māori.

“The best chance Chace had of surviving leukaemia was a bone marrow transplant to replace the cancerous cells within his bones with donated healthy marrow,” Topperwien says.

“However, unlike with blood, certain markers need to align to be a bone marrow match, meaning that Chace’s match was most likely going to be from a Māori donor. At the time, there were 26 million bone marrow donors on the international bone marrow registry, however only 6000 were Māori – but none was a match to our son.”


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