Banking on national brain cancer register

Sep 12 2016

Brain cancer researchers will get nation-wide biobank data

Mark Hughes Foundation (MHF) is spreading its funding wings nation-wide with a new grant for Brain Cancer Biobanking Australia (BCBA) that will help establish a communal research register for brain tumour and blood samples donated by patients around the country.

BCBA serves as a virtual hub for 17 independent brain cancer biobank centres across Australia, including the MHF-sponsored facility based at the Hunter Medical Research Institute in NSW. All currently use different databases to store clinical information on donors and samples.

MHF is providing $74,500 to assist BCBA in building the national biospecimen database, which it hopes will become the largest centralised registry of brain cancer tissue and data in the world.

By expediting access to a larger and uniformly characterised range of biospecimens, the online service will save time, money and afford greater statistical power to research projects. It will also bring brain cancer research into line with similar resources for leukaemia, lymphoma, breast and prostate cancer.

“Brain cancer research increasingly relies on the availability of tumour samples and associated data but the biobanks across Australia tend to be geographically and operationally disparate,” BCBA founder Robyn Leonard said. “We believe that coordination is essential to streamline access to the number, quality and type of tissue samples that researchers need.”

“We’re very grateful that the Mark Hughes Foundation has recognised the value in what we’re doing and have been prepared to support us. It’s a huge boost to our capacity to draw together all those individual collections and maximise the materials available for brain cancer research.”  

Robyn started BCBA after her daughter Lucie lost a seven-year battle with brain cancer in 2012. Her vision to create Australia’s first brain cancer biobanking consortium was quickly supported by clinicians and researchers.

MHF founder Mark Hughes said a national approach was essential to tackle a disease that kills more people under 40 in Australia than any other cancer, with only 20% of patients surviving beyond five years.

“Brain cancer is one of the most under-researched and under-resourced of all cancers so we are thrilled to support initiatives that will fuel progress in personalised medicine and immunotherapy,” Mark said. “We’ve seen the great value of developing a brain cancer biobank in the Hunter and the BCBA is set to take that further by coordinating and accelerating translational research.

“There will be long-term benefits for all people with brain cancer. Our Foundation receives amazing support from across the country and it’s very fitting that we’re helping a national cause.”

Details on the Mark Hughes Foundation at

* BCBA operates under the umbrella of the Cooperative Trials Group for Neuro-Oncology (COGNO) group at the NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre.