Since its establishment in 1998, the Tumour Bank at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead has played a vital role in the treatment and diagnosis of childhood cancer patients.
Supported by funding from The Kids’ Cancer Project, the Tumour Bank stores more than 38,000 tumour tissue samples which have been made available to over 80 projects from around the world. Researchers use tumour samples to gain new information for better diagnosis and treatment of kids with cancer.
Because childhood cancers are rare when compared to adult cancers, it is important that once diagnosed, a child’s tissue and blood samples are stored for future testing and research.
“One of the problems you have when dealing with childhood cancers and in particular with the rarer types, is having access to enough samples to conduct robust and meaningful research,” said Dr Geoff McCowage Paediatric Oncologist, Senior Staff Specialist at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead.
A child’s tissues samples are kept in a large freezer, the samples are only identified by cancer type, the gender and age of the child.
One of our research priorities is to increase capabilities to conduct research. By supporting the Tumour Bank at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, The Kids' Cancer Project are not only helping researchers here in Australia but overseas as well.
“The Tumour Bank sits in between the hospital and the research world. We collect, store, process and analyse blood and tissues samples from consenting patients for future research,” Aedan Roberts, Research Assistant at the Tumour Bank explained.
This research then helps to find better treatments that go directly back to the clinic.
“We work closely with clinicians and patient families to understand the importance of donating a sample of their child’s cancer," said Roberts. "We also actively promote in the research community that we have over 30,000 samples available on approved application for research."
“Having a Tumour Bank is absolutely critical to conducting research, by analysing more types of tissue samples from the same type of cancer researchers can gain an insight to the cancer’s DNA and its proteins so that we can find drugs or design drugs that will knock the cancer out without damaging healthy tissue," said Dr McCowage.