Brain tumour bank boosts research efforts

Queensland researchers have developed a large brain tumour bank to help find a treatment for Glioblastoma, the most aggressive adult brain cancer, with a survival rate of just 15-months.

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Professor, Bryan Day, has established the tumour bank with around 350 samples over more than 12 years, in collaboration with surgeons and oncologists at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.

“Brain cancer has been put in the ‘too hard basket’ for too long and we hope this approach will lead to better outcomes for adults and children with cancer. Treatment hasn’t taken a step forward in many years and we want to change that and give people hope for the future,” said Professor Day.

“We are generating brain cells in dishes that allow us to drive our research. Think of the cells as the foundation of a house for researchers looking to improve outcomes for patients.”

Since its early beginnings in 2009, the tumour bank has sparked global collaborations as researchers search for a breakthrough.

“We’ve made these cells available in America, Europe and Asia and they’ve already led to multiple discoveries. There are more than 50 publications that have led to more clinical trials.”

Professor Day says the tumours are taken directly from the theatre to the lab, where the tissue is stored in freezers at minus 80 degrees.

“This allows us to go back many years later and cut off the tumour cells. It is a wonderful resource that allows us to analyse the cells in greater detail,” he said.

“We don’t know what new or innovative approaches are going to be developed but the tumour bank will allow us to come back and examine cells many years later.”

Professor Day says the tumour bank is giving experts a new way to examine stem cells.

“We know stem cells start the disease and make it reoccur and we are looking at ways to target these cells. They are quite resistant to chemotherapy and radiation so they are one of our focal points,” he said.

“As stem cells are added to the brain organoids in the lab we can see how the tumour cells invade normal cells. This cutting-edge approach allows us to assess how they migrate into the brain and form a mass.

“The cells continue to grow because the blood vessels, immune cells and tumour cells are still intact. This is a wonderful model and the responses we get in the lab match the patients far better than the traditional models we have used.”

Professor Day hopes the tumour bank can help find a cure for Glioblastoma.

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