It started with a movie. Well before the credits rolled I was convinced that I wanted to be in the jungles with Dustin Hoffman and Rene Russo hunting Ebola and preventing international health disasters. It was a dream, and while I did manage to work in a PC3 laboratory for a few years, my real reasons were a little less Hollywood and lot closer to home.
I’ve grown up in a family plagued by autoimmune disease that were deeply involved in medical research. As a child I saw the incredible things that can result from research, including a parent taking part in a lifesaving first-in-man clinical trial and an aunt who was the recipient of the first organ transplant at John Hunter Hospital. Seeing the difference that medical research and innovation made to them inspired me to contribute to this incredible community.
To improve outcomes for cancer patients and to ensure that researchers have the best possible biological resources and services. Biobanking is an essential element of translational research and my goal is to ensure the longevity and implement a sustainable model of biobanking for the future.
Through our brain biobank and donation program, generously supported by the Mark Hughes Foundation, we are working towards improving outcomes for brain cancer patients.
Cass has had an interesting journey towards biobanking. Originally training for a career on the stage, she completed a Bachelor of Arts with a triple major in Drama, Anthropology and Ancient History before returning to university to complete a Bachelor of Biomedical Science. Following graduation she worked as a research assistant in microbiology for NSWHP, initially on the identification of vaccine targets in Coxiella Burnettii (Q-Fever) and later on clonal displacement in MRSA and the profiling of Alloicoccus species. During this time she also completed her Masters of Public health at USYD with a focus on infectious disease control and health in humanitarian crises.
Following the completion of her masters she transitioned to a clinical trial coordinator role with the Medical Oncology department at Calvary Mater. During this time she gained invaluable insight into trial design and administration as well as the principles of participant management from screening to consent, recruitment and enrolment.
Seeking a change of pace she then put her research interests on hold and moved to London to accept a role as an account manager for an international medical communications agency, servicing clients from both pharma and the NHS. Her research hiatus was short lived, however, and she returned to Newcastle two years later to manage the Hunter Cancer Biobank.
The biobanking climate is changing rapidly with new challenges being presented on all fronts. We have an obligation to our donors and to the community to ensure that their generous contributions are utilized for the highest quality translational research.
Our research aims at establishing a sustainable model of biobanking that is integrated into the research community to ensure that all researchers have access to the services and resources they require, when the require them.
Our brain biobank, generously supported by the Mark Hughes Foundation, is a cornerstone of our research program, not only providing us with invaluable tissue donations for research but also providing us with the opportunity to work closely with patients to better understand the emotional and psychosocial value of patient driven research and organ donation at end of life.
ABC Newcastle interview with Kia Handley - 10 September 2019