Integrity Excellence Innovation

June 2011 

Biobank Brief

Welcome to Biobank Brief for June 2011.

In this edition, we highlight the work of a Victorian geneticist whose award-winning research was undertaken using Victorian Cancer Biobank fresh tissue samples.

We also bring you details of an innovative collaboration between staff at Southern Health, which has simplified the process of assessing participants in an ongoing Thyroid study.

Read on for more details…

Biobank supports award-winning research

Wen Qiu

 From left: Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, Wen Qiu and Governor of Victoria, Mr Alex Chernov
(photo courtesy Peter Glenane Photography)

The Victorian Cancer Biobank congratulates geneticist, Wen Qiu on receiving the Premier’s Award for Health and Medical Research earlier this month.

As a researcher at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Wen’s work led to the discovery that the stromal cells surrounding cancer epithelial cells, have a role in modifying tumour outgrowth. Her research determined that the surrounding cells can act as a support to the cancerous cells, and in turn has raised the question: how do these cancerous cells trigger the normal cells to help and support their growth and spread?

The study also found that these changes are caused not by genetics, but by chemical modifications to the DNA.

Wen’s research was undertaken using breast and ovarian fresh tissue samples supplied by the Victorian Cancer Biobank. Of her experience with the Biobank, Wen said, "My research work involved developing fibroblast cultures from fresh biopsies. It was so valuable to obtain fresh breast and ovarian normal and cancer samples from VCB for my study. VCB staff are very helpful in all aspects. I have been very impressed by the high quality of the samples and professional service provided by VCB."

Results of this breakthrough study have been published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature Genetics.

Biobank's role in Thyroid Aspirate Study

Thyroid Study

An FNA sample is taken and an aliquot is given to Biobank staff for storage and use in research

In a move that promises positive outcomes for both staff and patients, tissue bank staff at Southern Health and Box Hill have collaborated with Diagnostic Imaging staff in order to assist with a current Thyroid Aspirate Study.

The study, being undertaken by endocrinologist, Dr Michael Mond, requires collection of fine needle aspiration (FNA) samples of the thyroid.

In this group effort, the tissue bank team together with Dr Mond, Dr Ronnie Ptsaznik (Ultrasound Consultant) and Dr Susan Lim (Radiologist), have developed a process that streamlines the assessment of thyroid patients before FNA samples are taken. This method requires that a pre-biopsy scan of the thyroid is done to determine size, shape and vascularity of the nodules, and to ensure validity of the request for FNA.

As part of the streamlining, all patients are booked at regular times of the week, enabling both the Biobank and Diagnostic Imaging departments to dedicate staff to carry out procedures in the most efficient manner.

The Biobank plays a crucial role in this process - that of both mediator between Cytology Services and Diagnostic Imaging, as well as supplier of the FNA specimens to the research group - and views this as another opportunity to fulfil its role as facilitator and supporter of cancer research.

Biobank raises profile at ISBER Conference

From left: Biobank staff Joanne Edgar, Paul Pinto Correia and Samantha Cauberg at the ISBER Conference

Last month, Paul Pinto Correia (Quality & Training Manager), Joanne Edgar (Applications & Operations Manager) and Samantha Cauberg (Tissue Bank Manager at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) travelled to the United States to attend the annual International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) Conference in Washington. Here's Paul’s account of the experience.

Atlanta, Georgia

First stop, a visit to Atlanta where there is a state biobank in Georgia that has a similar operational model to ours. The Biorepository Alliance of Georgia for Oncology (or BRAG-Onc) receives their main source of funding from the state of Georgia through the Georgia Cancer Coalition (GCC) - a cancer initiative established using tobacco settlement dollars and private donations. Their mission is to reduce the number of cancer-related deaths in Georgia. In 2002 the GCC provided funding to the Medical College of Georgia to initiate a statewide Tissue and Tumour Bank, which would store samples and data from cancer patients and make them available to researchers.
Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to the central operations in Augusta where all specimens are collated and stored, but I did manage to meet up with the coordinator of the Atlanta collection site. It was pleasing to see that our collection, processing and storage processes were well on par with theirs.

Arlington, Virginia

Arlington Virginia (Washington DC) hosted the ISBER 2011 Annual Meeting & Exhibits - Impact and Public Benefits of Biorepositories from May 15-18. The event was a great opportunity to meet people from companies involved in the biobanking industry and hear about the role of biorepositories in large-scale discovery science.

Other Victorian Cancer Biobank representatives in attendance were Joanne Edgar and Samantha Cauberg. Between us we presented a total of four posters and orations at the conference, giving the VCB a strong presence.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

My final stop was an extremely interesting and valuable three days of intensive instruction in the Preservation of Molecular, Cellular and Tissue Biospecimens course at Biocore in the warm and welcoming city of Minneapolis. Topics included cryo-preservation, liquid storage, protocol development and debugging, protein stabilisation, best practice and quality control.

Many of the fundamentals taught here have confirmed the quality techniques used in specimen preservation at the Victorian Cancer Biobank, or will be implemented to further improve our collection.

Paul Pinto Correia


Judy Davey, 29-5-1950 – 6-5-2011

Judy Davey, who worked at the Biobank for six months in 2008, sadly passed away at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in May. A nurse and educator, Judy was a pioneer and leader in the discipline of adolescent health at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Whilst at RCH, Judy also managed the Human Research Ethics Committee and it was her extensive knowledge and skills in this area that she brought to her role as the Biobank’s Applications Manager, expertly streamlining the applications process. Judy trained Joanne Edgar who took over this role in December 2008. Her wonderful warm personality and positive approach will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and condolences go out to Judy’s husband Rob, her two sons Christopher and Richard and her friends.