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Increased biobank funding will deliver more cancer breakthroughs

Wednesday 13 October, 2021

The Victorian Cancer Biobank, one of the largest cancer biobanks in Australia, has received $6 million in funding to continue its vital work over the next three years. 

The Victorian Cancer Biobank – which collects cancer tissue, blood and data for cancer research and clinical trials – was first established in 2006 thanks to generosity like yours. 

Cancer Council Victoria, with the help of its kind supporters, provided the initial seed funding in 2003 that enabled a grant application to be put forward to the Victorian government.

Today, the biobank is a consortium through long term partnerships between Cancer Council Victoria, Austin Health, Eastern Health, Melbourne Health, Monash Health and Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute.

With more than 450,000 biospecimens, the Victorian Cancer Biobank has supported more than 300 research projects since its inception, and thanks to this funding, will continue to facilitate scientific research that improves the lives of people facing cancer. 

General Manager of the Victorian Cancer Biobank Dr Wayne Ng said the Biobank is critical for many researchers to complete their work and make breakthroughs.

“We aim   to provide a viable solution for scientists to find the quality and number of biospecimens they need to make world-class discoveries ,  accelerating cancer research for the development of better patient diagnostics and therapies that will improve the quality of life for patients and families affected by cancer and other chronic diseases,” Dr Ng said.

“Thanks to this funding from the Victorian Cancer Agency, we will be able to continue our work in supporting the translation of cancer research breakthroughs into clinical applications in Victoria, Australia, and internationally.”

Accelerating discoveries that can catch more cancers early

Professor Michael Jennings and his research team at Griffith University in Queensland accessed samples from the Victorian Cancer Biobank, saying they would not have been able to conduct their research without them.

“Without access to the Victorian Cancer Biobank, we would have had to establish our own patient sample collections, which would have been very expensive and time consuming and would have delayed our research outputs and impact considerably,” Professor Jennings said.

Professor Jennings’ research is investigating a sugar, called Neu5Gc, that has been found in multiple tumour types and seems to be produced by cancer cells but not by healthy cells.

Professor Jennings’ team now hope to use their findings to develop a test for the early detection and monitoring of ovarian and breast cancer by detecting Neu5Gc levels.

“Thanks to the Victorian Cancer Biobank we have published one manuscript and have another manuscript submitted, have been awarded over $1 million in funding for our research, and we are now working with the Australian medical diagnostics company BARD1 to bring our cancer diagnostic tests to the clinic as soon as possible,” said Professor Jennings.

Wendy donated tissue after research helped her avoid cancer

Wendy Harrold donated her breast tissue to the Victorian Cancer Biobank after a preventative double mastectomy and reconstruction in 2018.

Wendy’s decisions followed the loss of her mother to breast cancer 42 years ago – and subsequently finding out that she too had a breast cancer gene called PALB2. 

Wendy preparing for her preventative surgery in hospital.

“It was a challenging journey, but I knew it would change my life. I wouldn't have to ever worry about getting breast cancer anymore. It also was an opportunity for me that my mum never had all those years before. If more people knew about donating tissue for research it would be a really great thing - it can help a lot of other people for years to come.”

In April this year, Wendy had her ovaries removed as people with the PALB2 are more susceptible to developing ovarian cancer. 

“I have watched how far research has come over the years since my mum was diagnosed. Without research and funds to do so, we wouldn’t have cures, treatments or medications for so many diseases and illnesses today.”

If you would like more information about the Victorian Cancer Biobank or are interested in donating tissue, visit the  Victorian Cancer Biobank website .

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