TRACKER: Australia’s First Longitudinal Biobank for Advanced Lung Cancer

TRACKER: Australia's First Longitudinal Biobank for Advanced Lung Cancer
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The creation of Australia’s first Longitudinal Biobank, a collaborative effort between Austin Health and leading research institutions, aims to establish an extensive biorepository of biological samples from a diverse group of participants. This innovative project marks a pivotal moment in the healthcare landscape, opening doors to unprecedented opportunities in personalized medicine, disease prevention, and treatment breakthroughs.

Dr. Tracy Leong, the Director of Interventional Pulmonology at Austin Health, along with Dr. Sagun Parakh, an Oncologist and Postdoctoral Researcher, will serve as the clinical leaders for Australia’s first longitudinal biobank dedicated to advanced lung cancer.

The primary objective of the Tissue Repository of Airway Cancers for Knowledge Expansion of Resistance (TRACKER) project is to address the urgent need for enhanced therapies for individuals suffering from advanced lung cancer.

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“TRACKER will provide a unique dataset that will enable us to transform our clinical approach to metastatic lung cancer and bring us one step closer to improving outcomes for lung cancer patients,” said Dr. Leong.

By obtaining tissue and blood specimens from individuals who have been identified with advanced lung cancer during the entire course of their illness, the longitudinal method will allow researchers to monitor the development of the ailment on a molecular scale. This approach will yield a significant understanding into the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of existing treatments for numerous patients.

At present, lung cancer stands as the primary contributor to cancer-linked fatalities in Australia. Regrettably, 80 percent of individuals manifest with inoperable metastatic disease, underscoring the considerable gap in clinical requirements for advanced lung cancer.

“Our advanced lung cancer TRACKER biobank will allow researchers to track the progression of the disease at the molecular level, with the aim of understanding why current therapies are failing so many patients and suggesting new approaches,” said Associate Professor Andreas Behren from the ONJCRI.

Conducted by the La Trobe University School of Cancer Medicine and the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI), this initiative will work alongside Austin Health, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute. The resulting biobank, a product of this joint effort, will serve as an extremely valuable asset for investigating the factors that lead to reduced effectiveness of immunotherapy.

Besides its pioneering system in Australia, the TRACKER initiative will establish a centralized infrastructure for the movement of samples. This centralized system guarantees the efficient transport of samples to specialized facilities capable of conducting targeted research. The extensive collection of samples and data accessible through TRACKER will empower researchers to further explore the complexities of the illness and craft customized therapeutic strategies that align with the distinct profiles of each patient.

With the progress of personalized medicine, the team aims to discover more efficient treatment approaches that focus on the particular molecular triggers of the disease. By customizing treatments according to each patient, medical experts can improve the effectiveness of therapies and reduce potential adverse reactions. This contributes to an enhanced quality of life and extended rates of survival.

The creation of this national biobank marks a notable progression in the fight against advanced lung cancer in Australia. The combined endeavors of research will not just enhance our comprehension of the ailment but also open avenues for inventive, patient-focused methods for diagnosis and therapy.

The TRACKER project has been made feasible through the generous funding of $4 million granted by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Futures Fund, along with assistance from project collaborators and supporters.