The Children’s Hospital at Westmead’s Tumour Bank is a storehouse of specimens collected over the course of a child's treatment to help guide and inform future studies into many different types of childhood cancer. It is a collaborative concern, having provided tumour specimens to many research groups nationally and internationally.
Many people and departments throughout The Children’s Hospital at Westmead play a role in the activities of the Tumour Bank including the Children’s Cancer Research Unit headed by Professor Jennifer Byrne, and the Cancer Centre for Children led by Dr Luciano Dalla-Pozza. Both of whom are running studies funded by The Kids’ Cancer Project.
Consent and collection
Many patients and parents support the Tumour Bank through the donation of tumour tissue, blood and bone marrow samples. These samples are removed from patients, either in an operating theatre or clinic, during the normal course of treatment.
A consent form tells patients and parents about the Tumour Bank. Once signed, it gives permission for samples to be stored in the Tumour Bank and later given to scientists studying childhood cancers. The decision to give permission to collect samples from a child for the purpose of research is voluntary. If a patient or parent decides not to give permission, or to with draw consent at a later time, the child’s care will not be affected in any way.
When the diagnostic process is complete, residual tissue specimens are transferred to special low-temperature cryogenic vials and immediately snap-frozen in liquid nitrogen. This freezes the samples very quickly and preserves proteins and genetic material within the sample. Once frozen, the samples are placed in numbered boxes and stored in a freezer at minus 80 degrees Celsius. In some circumstances, specimens stored within other departments at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead may be requested by the Tumour Bank to further support research applications.
Once stored, each samples is recorded in the Tumour Bank database. Information recorded includes age of the patient and age at diagnosis, type of cancer, history of the cancer, results of pathology tests, and type of treatment received.
When samples are provided for research, the child’s name will not appear on the sample. At no time will any personal contact details (address or telephone number) be issued with the specimens. The child and their family will remain entirely anonymous to the researchers who receive any Tumour Bank specimen. However, if the findings of the research could help with a child’s treatment, the coding on the sample will allow Tumour Bank staff to forward the results to their doctor.
This article was originally published in The Children’s Hospital of Westmead Tumour Bank Newsletter, December 2017 Edition. Images kindly supplied by CHW Tumour Bank.