From the early-1990s, members of the NZSO engaged in more concerted efforts to connect with various pharmaceutical companies to cover the travel costs of international speakers and to offer prizes at the annual meetings.1
In May 1991, the NZSO introduced corporate membership to formalise the Society's relationship with pharmaceutical companies. Companies that paid the $50 corporate membership fee were kept informed of all the activities of the Society and registered up to six of their members at the meetings for standard registrations fees. Yet, they did not have voting rights. That month, fifteen pharmaceutical companies registered as corporate members.2
Abstract submission form, 1990.
Rules for corporate membership, 1991.
The increasing involvement – and visibility – of pharmaceutical companies had been a point of unease among some members. Several members attested to the difficulty of organising meetings in ways that showed their sponsors due respect while ensuring the meetings were run independently.
Mike Berridge convened meetings in Wellington in 1984, 1993, 1999 and in 2012. He explains,
No one could afford a meeting at the level – because the medical people sort of require a level above what the scientists are quite happy with and so there was a bit of a clash of cultures there. But it sorted itself out, and it sorted itself out very amicably I think. But there were tensions twenty or thirty years ago in the way in which we organised and framed these meetings and they were not always well attended.3
Conference programmes from 1993 and 1994.
The involvement of pharmaceutical companies at the NZSO was especially noteworthy with the introduction of the Pharmaceutical Management Agency (Pharmac) in 1993. In response to the rising costs of medication, the New Zealand government established Pharmac to manage which medication was subsidised and to limit the amount spent on treatment. Several pharmaceutical companies responded by withdrawing their medication from New Zealand.
Bruce Baguley recalls how the NZSO provided pharmaceutical representatives with insight into the cancer researchers' perspectives in the wake of these decisions:
The companies felt embarrassed by this whole thing as well, because in many cases the parent companies were taking out a lot of what they had in the country and so you were sort of left with mainly sales staff and very little research and development staff, and they're big companies so we saw this was going on. But again, the Society was actually quite useful for that because the companies could see where we were coming from as people who have an interest in developing new treatments.4
One of the two NZSO logos designed by Insight Marketing Communications and funded by Glaxo Pharmaceuticals in 1993.
In 1996, the NZSO celebrated their 25th Jubilee conference with the theme 'From Genes to Clinical Trials'. Although the Society was founded in 1967, the anniversary in 1996 marked twenty-five years since their first 'annual' meeting in 1971.
The Jubilee conference focused on the advances in understanding the molecular biology of cancer, treatment, and clinical trials. It featured nineteen international speakers from England, Demark, the United States, Canada, and Australia.
Across the 1990s, the connections between scientists and clinicians continued to be a focus of the Society. Parry Guilford joined the NZSO after he moved to Dunedin to work with Tony Reeve on inherited stomach cancer the mid-1990s. Tony had 'always emphasised the importance of having clinical connections and the best way to do that in New Zealand is through the NZSO'.
Parry explains that the NZSO offered 'really the only forum in New Zealand where we could routinely meet clinicians who had an active research interest'. He remembers 'the enthusiasm of people. It was always a really nice group of people who were genuine, and not egotistical, and determined to improve cancer research in New Zealand'.5
At the end of the decade, president David Perez and the secretary/treasurer Mike Eccles made the NZSO an incorporated society.6 David had been involved in other societies that had made similar decisions and he felt these groups were in a stronger position to attract sponsorship. The NZSO had also accumulated money through sponsorship, conference registration fees, and subscriptions, and needed to report on how they spent this money.
David recalls, 'together we said: "the NZSO has sort of grown up as a village organisation where friendly people meet and share ideas and have a good time, all that sort of thing, but we said we should have some rules as to how it operates"'.7
They outlined rules about the process for electing office bearers, their length of term, subscription fees, and expenditure. The NZSO became an incorporated society on 16 December 1998.
Shortly afterwards, they approached Ken Dempster to act as the secretary/treasurer. Ken had been the secretary of the Otago and Southland Division of the Cancer Society of New Zealand since 1964, David explains that he 'made a very major contribution to putting [the NZSO] on a business footing'.8 Bridget Robinson agrees and observes, 'a lot of things wouldn't have happened nearly as well without him … We've been very lucky through his good will'.9
1Letter from Barrie Evans to Bernie Fitzharris, 23 September 1991, NZSO archives.
2Minutes of the 19th Annual General Meeting, May 1991, Auckland, NZSO archives.
3Interview with Mike Berridge, 14 March 2018.
4Interview with Bruce Baguley, 14 February 2018.
5Interview with Parry Guilford, 15 March 2018.
6Minutes of the 27th Annual General Meeting, 7 May 1998, Christchurch School of Medicine, NZSO archives.
7Interview with David Perez, 8 March 2018.
9Interview with Bridget Robinson, 6 March 2018.