Cancer samples to be banked for study

Dr Kara Pennow and Dr Martin Carolan. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

Dr Kara Pennow and Dr Martin Carolan. Picture: CHRISTOPHER CHAN

A biobank of tumour tissue samples, which may one day unlock the causes of certain cancers, will be created at Wollongong Hospital, thanks to an injection of state government funding.

New drugs and treatment options for cancer patients will also be developed by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District (ISLHD) in conjunction with University of Wollongong researchers via the funding announced this week.

It's part of a $19.3-million commitment from NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner to create three new cancer research hubs across NSW.

About $6.5 million of that will go towards the establishment of a Centre for Oncology Education and Research Translation (CONCERT), which will involve the university's Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute (IHMRI), the local health district, the Ingham Institute and two Sydney universities.

The CONCERT partners will contribute a further $1.5 million to the project to create a total funding pool of $8 million.

Dr Martin Carolan, director of radiation oncology and medical physics at Wollongong Hospital, will oversee the research activities including the biobanking of tissue samples.

"Whenever we undertake surgery on a cancer patient the tumour is removed," he said.

"Biobanking involves preserving some of that tissue and cryogenically freezing it here [at Wollongong Hospital] before ultimately transferring it to the Ingham Institute at Liverpool Hospital where the main tissue bank will be held.

"All the details about the characteristics of that disease for that patient are then stored in a database for research purposes."

The ISLHD is co-funding the biobank to help researchers study the best treatments and medications for certain cancers, and determine causes.

Dr Carolan will work in close collaboration with a team of 20 IHMRI researchers led by Associate Professor Marie Ranson.

"The whole basis of IHMRI is to bring clinicians and researchers from the hospital and the university together to address important clinical issues and attract grants to fund those," IHMRI acting executive director Professor Brett Garner said.

"The fact that IHMRI is a key player in this affiliation with these larger institutions shows external recognition of the very high quality of cancer research being undertaken in this region."

Prof Garner said the Cancer Institute NSW grant would fund ongoing and new research projects.

"The major initiative to be funded is the biobanking system but the grant will also cover existing projects that are already under way in the development of new therapeutics for cancer treatment and also more effective ways of delivering these drugs to patients."

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