Publish Date: 
Monday, March 9, 2020 - 15:15

Mater researchers based at TRI have partnered with QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI) to establish a unique breast cancer biobank to better support Queensland researchers and ultimately improve the outcomes for breast cancer patients.  

The Mater-IHBI Breast Cancer Research Biobank involves surplus donated breast tissue being taken from Mater patients when they undergo surgery, which researchers can quickly access so they can carry out timely experiments on live tissue. 

Mater’s Director of Pathology and Biobank co-director Dr Cameron Snell said the Biobank, which is located at Mater, was a unique service not only in Brisbane, but across Australia.  

“The difference with the Mater-IHBI Biobank is it allows translational researchers to do pre-clinical experiments on live tissue samples so they can determine if a particular cancer will respond to individual treatments. 

“It takes us only 60 minutes from accessing tissue from a surgery to then being transported to the Mater Pathology lab and on to the researcher, ready to be worked on.  

“The sample is still alive which makes a significant difference to the outcome of the experiment.

“Having access to breast cancer tissue is crucial as it allows researchers to continue their work with the aim of developing targeted treatment for breast cancer patients.”

Across Mater hospitals, 1000 women are treated for breast cancer each year and many require surgery.

Biobank co-director Dr Laura Bray from QUT’s IHBI said the tissue samples were a “precious resource.” 

“We are grateful to have this live tissue because our research teams will gain insights into the distinct differences between individual cancers,” Dr Bray said.

“No two cancers are the same even if they are the same subtype - the most common breast cancer subtypes being oestrogen and/or progesterone positive, HER2-postitive, and triple negative."

Mater patient Jane Andersen, who is now in remission from triple negative breast cancer, said any steps to improve breast cancer research were desperately needed. 

“I have three children and no family history of breast cancer, however now my children and nieces unfortunately have this history and need to be vigilant and informed," she said.

“More research into breast cancer is so important so they have more answers and also for their children in the future.

“I had triple negative breast cancer and there is a lot we don’t know about this type of cancer. There are no targeted treatments currently.  

“This biobank gives hope to breast cancer patients like me as it’s improving the way researchers do their life-saving work.”

This article was first published by the Mater.