For a quarter of a century and ongoing, thousands of patients treated at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW) have played a vital role in advancing global knowledge about pediatric cancer via Biospecimen Research Services.
Originally established as the first biobanking facility dedicated exclusively to pediatric cancer, this institution, now referred to as Biospecimen Research Services (formerly known as The Tumour Bank), has proven to be an indispensable asset for researchers striving to improve the well-being of future generations of children.
It manages the organization of collecting, storing, and sharing biological samples for global research efforts, offering cancer researchers a wide range of top-notch tumor and bone marrow samples, as well as non-cancerous tissue specimens, peripheral blood samples, and clinical information.
It houses a collection of 52,345 tissue samples generously contributed by over 4,845 patients. Additionally, it has played a crucial role in facilitating over 115 research projects on a global scale thus far.
Prof Daniel Catchpoole, Principal Research Scientist and Head of Biospecimen Research Services, said “biobanking have made a significant difference to informing paediatric cancer care.”
“Patients from little-old Western Sydney are contributing to a worldwide understanding of paediatric cancer,” he added.
“Our job is to make sure these samples are available for researchers who can learn more and advance knowledge of this disease, helping them to go onto the next discovery while protecting the identity of our patients.”
Every year, The Cancer Centre for Children at CHW receives new referrals for up to 150 children diagnosed with cancer. Pediatric cancer is categorized as a rare condition, and among these new cases, there are occasions where only one or two children may have a particular type of disease.
“Our biobank has contributed to worldwide studies for rare cancers that has led to new knowledge of this disease. We are an institute that wants to learn about what is happening to this child so for the next child who comes in with the same sort of disease, we can do something better,” Prof Catchpoole said.
Biospecimen Research Services operate in partnership with pathologists, medical oncologists, surgeons, and other skilled healthcare professionals, and have become an essential component of patient care.
“We have morphed from being a biobank with freezes in a corridor to being a service provider where the skills of my team in tissue handling for research has come to the forefront,” Prof Catchpoole said.
“It’s not about how many samples we’ve had in our freezers, but rather what skillsets we provide the hospital in allowing the transition of samples from a donor through to a researcher in a standardised and consistent way.”
Biospecimen Research Services holds a prominent position as a founding member within the Australasian Biospecimens Network. Additionally, it is also registered in the NSW Office of Health and Medical Research NSW Biobank Registry.
In 2017, it achieved the distinction of being the first biobank to receive accreditation through the NSW Health Pathology certification program. This accreditation underscores Biospecimen Research Services’ dedication to maintaining exceptional standards in biobanking services and its ongoing commitment to advancing top-notch translational cancer research, clinical trials, and precision medicine.
Biospecimen Research Services is currently working on accreditation for the National Association Testing Authorities.