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The Massey Study - Unravelling the Issues.


Roy Sefton.. An indepth unravelling of the issues with the “2013 Document”. New Zealand's Nuclear Test Veterans Association interpretation. Provided to the Minister of Veterans.

*In 2007 Massey University released the results of the Cytogenetic Analysis. *The mFISH Assay determined the Nuclear test veterans had been irradiated at the nuclear tests.



The Ministerial Advisory Group on Veterans Health. (The Expert Panel)

In 2009, Minister for Veterans, Hon Judith Collins, initiated a Ministerial Advisory Group on Veterans Health, (Expert Panel), to review three Massey studies. The Sister Chromatid Exchange Study, (SCE). The Psychological Impact Study, and the CytoGenetic Analysis which included the important mFISH Assay.


The Advisory Group consisted of six expert academics, including a Naval Captain Surgeon. The Group was chaired by Professor John Campbell of Otago University. A further six national and international experts were commissioned by the Advisory Group to review the studies. The Reviewers and the study that they reviewed were:-

*Keith J Petrie, Professor of Psychology, Review the Psychological Impact Study. *Mark Creamer, Professor of Psychology, Review the Psychological Impact Study. *Stephen Robinson, Professor of Paediatric Genetics. Sister Chromatid Exchange Study, (SCE). *Ian Morrison, Professor of Pathology. SCE, and Cytogenetic Analysis. *Yuri Durbrova, Geneticist, SCE, and Cytogenetic Analysis. *John D Docherty, Epidemiologist, Assess the Review of Professor Dubrova.


Of prime importance is geneticist Professor Yuri Dubrova who is internationally recognised for his nuclear intergenerational research. Dubrova analysed the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. In a 1996 articles in Nature, Dubrova reported a statically significant increase in the minisatelite DNA mutation rate in the children of parents who received a high dose of radiation from the Chernobyl accident, contradicting studies that found no significant inherited genetic effects among survivors among offspring of Japanese A-Bomb survivors.


In Durova's in his review of the Massey mFISH, in part stated;-

“In summary, the authors have conducted a comprehensive CytoGenetic Analysis of a large cohort of New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans. The main results of their study provide very strong experimental evidence for the long term effects of radiation exposure…..”


The Ministerial Advisory Group contracted Epidemiologist, Professor John D Docherty to assess the Dubrova review. Of the mFISH Assay Docherty in part stated;-

“In summary, the authors found statistically significantly elevated frequencies of some chromosomal anomalies in their study of 50 exposed veterans verses 50 non-exposed controls, some five decades after the exposure to ionising radiation from nuclear tests”


THE MINISTERIAL ADVISORY GROUP ON VETERANS HEALTH CONSIDERED ALL OF THE REVIEWS AND OTHER INFORMATION PROVIDED TO THEM:-.


In 2010, The Ministerial Advisory Group advised the Minister that they concluded:-


“the Massey University mFISH study results do provide evidence that the nuclear test veterans were exposed to ionising radiation. It is not possible to determine the extent of the exposure from these studies.”


The Advisory Group did NOT indicate any concerns with the mFISH Assay TEST and CONTROL GROUPS.


The Advisory Group also recommended that a “Lay Review” be done under their supervision. In 2013, Veterans Affairs New Zealand commissioned Dr Sheena Hunt to do a “Summary of Three Studies”, (the SCE, Psychological, and Cytogenetic studies). It is unclear what the purpose of the summary was.

*if it was the 'Lay Review', it was not done under the recommended supervision of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Veterans Health. *If it is not the Lay Review, Why would Government commission a 'SUMMARY' of the reviews provided to the Ministerial Advisory Group on Veterans Health?


The 2013 'Summary of Three studies'. (A summary is a brief statement of facts)

Page 1 of, Dr Sheena Hunt's “Summary of Three Studies” Dr Hunt correctly states:


“One of the three tests in the cytogenetic study showed significant elevated frequencies of some chromosomal anomalies in exposed veterans. While this may indicate long term damage from radiation exposure, the actual health implications of these chromosomal changes are not certain”.


However, on the final page Dr Hunt goes from summarising, to giving her opinion. she states:


“In all THREE studies, the poor choice of exposed and control subjects means that it is difficult to understand the reported differences between the groups and therefore to draw conclusions on which decisions can be made”. (My emphasis)


Dr Hunt's opinion is wrong. By criticising the study groups make up, which includes the mFISH Assay, she seriously undermines the integrity of the mFISH Assay findings.


Dr Hunt failed to recognise that neither the Ministerial Advisory Group. The peer reviewers of the Journal 'Cytogenetic and Genome Research', the Genetic studies reviewers, Professor's Robertson, and Morrison, do not express any concerns with the make up of the genetic studies test and control group In particular it should not be used by government to counter concerns raised by the nuclear test veterans. It has the potential to misinform researchers in the future.


NZNTVA has received Dr Hunt's summary as a response to our expressions of concern, it is probable that Dr Hunt's opinion of criticising the study test and control groups has been seized upon by Government as its major argument in dismissing the mFISH Assay findings of irradiation of the veterans.




The 2013 document should be annulled. Minister Ron Mark has advised that he is unable to remove the 2013 document from the VANZ website. If VANZ is going to record information on its Website, it should be accurate. Someone authorised the Summary posting, and someone is able to have it removed.


The independent review of the mFISH by Professor David Brenner.

In 2008, Professor David Brenner, the internationally recognised Higgins Professor of Radiation Biophysics, and other major posts, at Columbia University, New York, provided a review of the Massey University mFISH Assay to the High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, London. NZNTVA supplied copies of Brenners review to the Ministerial Advisory Group on Veterans Health and Government. In his review Brenner in part states. (my emphasis).


“The issue I have focused on here IS THE VALIDITY AND UTILITY OF ROWLAND'S MFISH STUDY OF 49 NZ NUCLEAR TEST VETERANS VS 50 MATCHED CONTROLS. It is pertinent to note that this work has now been peer-reviewed and published in a well regarded scientific journal (Cytogenetics and Genomics Research).

In my opinion, the Rowland mFISH study provides extremely strong evidence that the nuclear test veterans have a statistically increased burden of chromosome aberrations compared to the matched controls. The measured aberration rates in the matched control group were what one would expect for individuals of their age – indicating that the METHODOLOGY, PRECISION AND ACCURACY OF THE 2008 ROWLAND MFISH STUDY WAS APPROPRIATE. THE MOST LIKELY SOURCE OF THE INCREASED CHROMOSOME ABERRATION LEVELS IS RADIATION EXPOSURE AND IF THIS IS THE CASE, THE RADIATION DOSE ESTIMATES PRODUCED IN THE ROWLAND STUDY MAY BE CONSIDERED “STATE OF THE ART”.


The Multicolour Fluorescent in situ Hybridisation, (MFISH) Assay, is a prime research tool in identifying radiation damage in exposed populations. However, the Advisory Group, the 2013 Summary, and Government, have made no reference to Brenner's important review. This enlightening review appears to have been totally disregarded.


A Summary


*2008. The Massey University mFISH Assay detected significant test site DNA damage in NZ Operation Grapple Veterans. *2010. A Government appointed Advisory Group consisting of dozen experts, investigated the research and upheld the mFISH methodology and findings. *2013. VANZ appointed Dr Sheena Hunt to provide a 'Summary of Three Studies.' * The Summary concluded that the three Massey university studies including the mFISH Assay were flawed because of poor selection of the test and control study groups. *Dr Hunt failed to take into account all of the geneticist reviewes providing supporting opinion of the mFISH Assay, and its result of irradiation of the veterans. *The flawed mFISH study group opinion expressed in the in the 'Summary', has been used by Government to counter test veterans issues. It is also posted permanently of the VANZ Website and has the potential to misinform future researchers.


It is incomprehensible That Government would approve, and provide $100,000 of taxpayers money to partly fund a $200,000+ genetic study on NZ Operation Veterans. When the study detects significant radiation induced DNA damage in the nuclear test veterans, VANZ and Government do not accept the research findings.


Government spends a similar amount of taxpayers money to set up a Ministerial Advisory Group on Veterans Health. It consisted of 12 expert academics to investigate the Massey University research. The Ministerial Advisory Group upholds the mFISH Assay findings of irradiation of the veterans. Government does not accept that finding either.


In 2013, Government initiates a summary of the Massey research, including the mFISH Assay. The author, Dr Sheena Hunt, provided personal opinion that the study test and control groups selection is flawed. Dr Hunt appears to have failed to recognise the reviews of the expert Geneticist's that are supportive of the mFISH findings of irradiation of the veterans.


Government uses the faulty 'Summary of Three Studies' to address nuclear test veterans concerns.


NZNTVA has for some years been asking Government to address the irregularities in the Massey research issues. Not one Minister of Veterans responses have addressed any of the issues raised. Their letters are empty and often quote the availability of war pensions and a medal, none of which are relevant to the issues raised.


After NZNTVA raised its concerns with Minister Ron Mark in November of 2017, the Minister recently made a step forward. He offered Dr Al Rowland, the Massey University geneticist, the publication of his right of reply to the government's posting of incorrect information on the Massey studies. Minister Mark made no comment to NZNTVA as to government recognition of the irradiation of the nuclear test veterans.


It is probable that Dr Rowland’s comments will not be considered by VANZ and Government, but simply placed on the VANZ Website.


The Governments non recognition of the nuclear test veterans DNA damage, continues to elevate the stress and anxiety, and a feeling of hopelessness within the test veterans and their families. Governments bungling of the nuclear research sets a precedence for service people who have, or will, be subjected to chemical or radiation contaminants during service. Simply Government will not recognise professional opinion of service people who have been contaminated.


NZNTVA again asks Minister Mark to provide some indication that Government recognises the irradiation of the Nuclear Test Veterans.


Roy Sefton QSM Chair New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans Association

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