News Source: www.9news.com.au
They are giant tanks storing 110,000 samples of blood and tissue at minus 195 degrees, and they could unlock secrets to keeping cancer patients alive longer. Three years after opening its biobank, Chris O'Brien Lifehouse's cryotanks are one-third full of samples from patients all over Australia. Now they're beginning to accept samples from around the world as researchers aim to build their armoury of expertise. More than 20,000 of the samples have come from men with metastatic prostate cancer who've been involved in a global trial, called Enzamet, where they were given a drug Enzalutamide.
"Those samples are really going to help us tease out the differences between those patient groups and how we can predict better what patients will respond to," Lifehouse medical oncologist Dr Kate Mahon told 9News. As a scientific community, doctors have only realised the benefit of biobanks in the last five or so years, Dr Mahon added. The samples, in little vials, then boxes of 100, and in square shelves that hold 1500, can last indefinitely in the liquid nitrogen. But researchers hope to use them before they become decades old.
"We've got amazing technology to interrogate those samples for all sorts of different things," Dr Mahon said. "It really gives us an incredible treasure trove of information. "The holy grail would be to be able to use these samples to really pinpoint who it is exactly who will benefit from these treatments and who won't and who we should be giving alternative treatments to. Because really that's the problem in cancer treatment in general. We're getting an expanding number of treatments available but they don't benefit everybody." Michael McLennan from Croydon Park has his blood and tissue samples stored in one of the cryotanks. Diagnosed four years ago with metastatic prostate cancer, he is one of the patients on the Enzamet trial run by ANZUP – the Australian and New Zealand Urogenital and Prostate cancer trials.
"If it can help somebody else down the track somewhere, why not," Mr McLennan said. "I've been very fortunate to be on it." The 79-year-old admitted he had ignored his symptoms for too long before finally seeing a doctor. ANZUP cancer trials CEO Margaret McJannett said the biobank will help researchers tailor treatment to patients. "The biobank has allowed us to actually collect samples across the world … so we can conduct further clinical trials research."