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Irish cancer research gets a boost with its first ever brain tumour biobank

It is one of only a handful of its kind in Europe.

Image: Julien Behal

THERE WAS A boost for cancer research in Ireland today, with the announcement that the initial samples have been collected for inclusion in the country’s first brain tumour biobank.

Researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons and Beamount Hospital are leading the project, and Professor of Physiology Jochen Prehn says that the biobank will culminate in patients benefitting from enhanced treatments in future.

In Ireland each year, around 290 people are diagnosed with malignant primary tumours of the brain. This represents around 2% of all invasive cancers.

Prognosis is usually poor for this form of cancer, with only one in five people still alive five years after their diagnosis.

So what is a biobank?

It is a large collection of medical and biological data and samples from patients.

All of the samples are typically stored in an ultralow temperature freezer, so that different experiments can be done and the data used in a variety of ways.

All of the samples are anonymised and the consent of patients is sought before their inclusion.

Each patient who has surgery to have the tumour removed from the brain will have it examined and diagnosed. After this, the excess tissue is stored in the biobank for future analysis.

This biobank is one of only a handful of its kind in Europe.

“Attainable goal”

Prehn said that in order to conduct research into brain tumours with a view to being better able to treat the disease, “it is vital to have access to a wide range of samples from various different types of brain tumours”.

The biobank is able to provide this wide range necessary for such studies.

He added that biobanks help to create collaboration between researchers and organisations, and that it quickened the process of developing new treatments:

They produce a synergy that hastens the research process, making treatments or cures to genetic conditions attainable in the near future.

The biobank is being part-funded by Brain Tumour Ireland.

This project follows the example of other cancer biobanks in Ireland, which are already in operation for the likes of breast and bowel cancer.

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