Campaign kick-starts cancer ‘biobank’ conversation

Sep 8 2015

A new website – – was established by the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance to promote the long-term benefits of storing cancer material for future research use.

An accompanying video poses the question ‘Whose life will you change’ while showing the journey of a typical cancer sample, from patient consent through to storage, analysis, target discovery and the development of a new treatment trial.

The Hunter Cancer Biobank based at the HMRI Building is currently helping researchers from the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and Calvary Mater Newcastle who are studying cancers of the brain, breast, bowel, kidney, lung, pancreas and prostate, among others. But more samples are needed, according to oncologist and researcher Dr Craig Gedye.

“Because every patient’s cancer is different, it’s vital that we try to save every patient’s cancer samples – someone, somewhere, may hold the cure for that kind of cancer,” Dr Gedye said.

“Cancers change and evolve over time, and treatments that work for some patients might fail in others, so recognising and understanding this complexity gives us the chance to develop personalised treatments for everyone.”

Cancer tissue removed during surgery is initially examined by pathologists to determine treatment options. It is then routinely disposed of, unless a patient gives permission to ‘bank’ the sample.

Professor Stephen Ackland, Director of the Hunter Cancer Research Alliance, says that Power of Biobanking aims to build awareness and start the conversation between doctors and patients,

“This campaign empowers the community to take a leading role in facilitating cancer research. It should also encourage clinicians to think about the research opportunities that biobanking can provide,” Professor Ackland said during the launch.

“Many patients are aghast if you tell them that tissue and blood is discarded rather than being used for something productive. We can’t predict which samples will be the most informative so the power of biobanking is exponential – the more we have, the more we can do.”
Details at

* Power of Biobanking is supported by Sydney Vital and the Translational Cancer Research Centre. Dr Gedye and Professor Ackland research in conjunction with the HMRI Cancer Program. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community. The Hunter Cancer Research Alliance is funded by the Cancer Institute NSW.