Melanoma research gets Biobank boost

Friday 10 August, 2012

Today melanoma researchers have a new resource to help them gain a greater understanding of melanomas and develop more effective treatments with the launch of a new tissue collection facility at The Alfred Hospital.

Set up by the Victorian Cancer Biobank (Biobank) and funded by the Victorian Government through the Victorian Cancer Agency, the facility will collect tissue to provide much needed support to collaborative research projects such as the Melbourne Melanoma Project based at Peter Mac and the Victorian Melanoma Service at The Alfred.

Medical Oncologist and researcher for the Melbourne Melanoma Project, Dr Mark Shackleton says, "My lab is excited at the possibility of now receiving melanoma tissue from The Alfred. Early stage melanomas, despite being potentially deadly, are often quite small.

"Now that the Alfred is supplying fresh melanoma tissue via the Victorian Cancer Biobank, there will be more early stage melanomas for us to study. This will be a real boon for our research – and eventually a boon for melanoma patients around the world. " Dr Shackleton explained.

Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. According to the Cancer Council 2,500 Victorians are expected to be diagnosed with Melanoma in 2013, making it the fifth most common cancer in the state.

CEO of the Biobank, Dr Anne Thompson says, "Since 2006 more than 19,000 Victorians undergoing cancer and other surgery have donated blood and surplus tissue, making the Biobank the largest cancer repository in Australia with almost 400,000 samples in storage.

"Already, 20 melanoma patients from The Alfred have donated tissue to support research being done by the Victorian Melanoma Service and the Melbourne Melanoma Project, significantly adding to the 106 samples provided by Biobank donors in the last 2 years," she said.

Recent donor, Neville Drummond did not hesitate to participate in the Melbourne Melanoma Project and to donate tissue and blood to Biobank at The Alfred. He reasoned "Well, it might not help me, but it could help my grandkids or someone else's kids or grandkids and that's a good thing. It's life threatening and if we can do something to help... well it's easy".

The important contribution tissue banks make in the fight against cancer was recognised by the Victorian Government when Parliamentary Secretary for Health, Mr Nick Wakeling, MP officially opened the collection facility at The Alfred on Friday.

This follows their commitment in mid-2012 to provide funds to explore how the Biobank can work with other data organisations such as BioGrid and the Victorian Cancer Registry to improve the process of providing high quality data associated with the biospecimens.

The VCB is a not-for-profit consortium of Victorian tissue banks with member sites at Austin Health, Melbourne Health, Peter Mac and Southern Health and the Cancer Council Victoria as the lead agency on the agreement with the Victorian Government.

Updated: 10 Aug, 2012