The first official meeting of the NZSO took place in Murray's laboratory on Saturday 22 February 1969. Members formally accepted the conditions set out during the meeting with the Cancer Society, finalised the constitution, re-elected officers, and established a student membership fee of $1.9
The Society was also required to remove the word 'cancer' from their title. They opted for the term 'oncology' which was becoming increasingly used overseas. It was less common in New Zealand in the 1960s, and Maarire was reportedly informed the name change was not acceptable to the Cancer Society as 'there is no such word as "oncology"'.10 Maarire disagreed, and the organisation became the 'New Zealand Society for Oncology' in 1969. Yet, members continued to publicise their events as 'cancer conferences' in various programmes and correspondence over the next decade.
The inaugural scientific meeting included six presentations by researchers based in Dunedin and Christchurch. It also featured talks by Henry Rappaport from the University of Chicago and Leslie Foulds from the Chicago Medical School.
Dick Wilkins was completing his PhD in radiation biophysics at Wakari Hospital in Dunedin when he was 'hauled' into the first meeting in 1969. He explains:
The thing with the Oncology Society is until that came along there was no formal place we met … Everybody knew each other because there was such a small group of people but there was no formal scientific meeting of a cancer type nature.
Peter Fitzgerald agrees. At that time, all scientific meetings focused on 'plants and really on animals but there was nothing on humans at all'.11
The first two meetings laid the foundation for the Society that developed over the next five decades. From the outset, it had a focus on both clinical and scientific research, an aim to facilitate communication among cancer researchers, and an emphasis on high profile international speakers.
The founders were eager to develop the Society into a national organisation. Yet, the distance between the main cancer research centres, coupled with a lack of funding for travel, meant this was not an easy task.