BCBA Steering Committee member and neuropathologist, Dr Winny Varikatt, has been the driving force behind the establishment of brain cancer biobanking at Westmead. Dr Varikatt is the Senior Staff Specialist at Westmead’s Institute of Clinical Pathology & Medical Research. Her desire to become a neuropathologist and to do something to improve the treatment and outcomes of brain tumour sufferers was driven by a personal loss, and in her words, if you want to make a difference:
‘Tumour Banking is a good place to start. To make fresh tumour tissue available to researchers and one day be able to find targetable mutations that can improve the outcome of brain tumour sufferers.’
Dr Varikatt and her team recently received a $100,000 NSW Health Biospecimen Collection Grant - a major boost for this fledging brain cancer biobanking operation.
We are proud to have Winny Varikatt as part of our Consortium. BCBA was established and is run by a group of individuals who have a similar vision – collaborating to advance brain cancer research across Australia.
This month our consortium member profile includes our congratulations to Anna Nowak on her recent appointment as Pro Vice Chancellor Health and Medical Research, University of Western Australia. Anna is a leading oncologist, clinical trialist and translational researcher in the fields of neuro-oncology and mesothelioma. Named West Australian Cancer Researcher of the Year in 2018, she is also Director of the National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases. As a custodian of a brain cancer biobank, Anna was involved in the first BCBA meeting. She is passionate about engaging in a consumer-led research agenda and working with the committed group of clinicians and researchers who make up the BCBA Consortium. In her words,
Thank you to all our collaborators and supporters – it has been a challenging year, but BCBA has made great strides in our commitment to supporting brain cancer research and patient care. We look forward to continuing our important work in 2021.
Very best wishes to all for a very Happy Christmas and a Joyful New Year.
Congratulations to A/Prof Wendy Lipworth and Prof John Simes – both recently recognised for their outstanding contributions to research. Wendy was named Australia’s leading researcher in bioethics in the recent The Australian Special Edition: Research, and John has been listed in the world’s top 2% of most cited researchers in their fields in the flagship life sciences journal – PLOS Biology. BCBA has been fortunate to have benefited from their invaluable support from Day 1 and we look forward to their involvement continuing well into the future.
At the recent Consortium Meeting, Prof Michael Besser, BCBA Chair since inception in 2015, formally announced his retirement, handing over the baton to Chair Elect A/Prof Lindy Jeffree with the words,
“Lindy I remember publishing a paper with you exactly 20 years ago! We are very lucky to have such a multi-talented and committed person taking the lead at BCBA. I firmly believe that every organization needs and benefits from change and look forward to watching BCBA continue to develop and grow with you at the helm.”
Michael was thanked for his incredible dedication to building and expanding BCBA operations over the past 6 years. Happily, he will be continuing his longtime support for BCBA as a Consortium Member and remain as Board Chair of our charity arm, the Brain Cancer Collective.
This month we profile BCBA’s staunch supporter from day 1 - Prof Michael Besser AM – Chair of both the BCBA Consortium and our charity arm, the Brain Cancer Collective. Michael is an emeritus consultant neurosurgeon at RPA and Sydney Children's Hospitals, and a clinical professor at the University of Sydney where he teaches neuroanatomy. He is the former Head of the Department of Neurosurgery at RPA, Chair of the Institute of Clinical Neurosciences and the Neurosurgical Board, President Neurosurgical Society of Australasia and Examiner in Neurosurgery RACS.
Away from the operating theatre and lecture halls, he's also made a name for himself in the sporting arena, representing Australia at eight triathlon world championships, as well as ironman events. So of course Michael is always first to saddle up for our fundraising Bike Ride for Brain Cancer. He'll be on his bike again next March to raise funds and take part in our 3rd Sydney to Hunter Valley event – proudly wearing the legend jersey he was awarded in 2019 as the oldest rider on the road.
Michael is a legend both on and off the bike, passionate about improving patient care and finding a curative treatment for brain cancer, he was honoured with the Order of Australia in 2001 for his services to medicine.
The most immediate improvement in survivorship for brain cancer patients will be achieved through optimising the use of currently available treatments. However, in the absence of reliable data on the patterns of treatment and care delivery in Australia, it is impossible to understand how current practice is impacting patient outcomes, and in turn allocate resources in the areas of greatest need.
BCBA has initiated the Australian Brain Cancer Clinical Registry (ABCR) project with the goal of creating a national collection of key data to facilitate data-driven improvements in brain cancer care and survivorship.
A/Prof Lindy Jeffree (pictured) leads a multi-institutional working group currently undertaking the extensive process of identifying (through scientific literature review) and refining (through workshops) the clinical indicators that will benchmark the collection of data to measure the quality of care across the entire trajectory of the brain cancer patient journey.
This month the group will commence a Delphi process (survey/feedback) to gain expert consensus on the final set of clinical indicators. Digital questionnaires will be sent to medical professionals, patients and carers. We look forward to your involvement with the Delphi process, which will take us another step closer to developing this important national database.
BCBA’s fundraising arm, the Brain Cancer Collective (BCC), has been awarded two $10,000 CommBank Staff Foundation Community Grants to progress BCBA’s latest projects – a National Brain Cancer Clinical Registry and Virtual Care Coordination Platform.
“This $20,000 boost to our charity’s bottom line is certainly very much appreciated in the current fundraising climate and we’re very grateful to CBA for all their support” said BCC Founding Director, Robyn Leonard.
BCC was nominated by CBA staff members, Rochelle Eldridge and Mark Leach, who provide financial and strategy planning advice to BCBA through CBA’s pro bono program, and Robynne Perry, who is actively involved in our annual Bike Ride for Brain Cancer and other fundraising activities.
Cell lines created from patient-derived glioblastoma (GBM) tumour tissue are a critical resource for researchers seeking to understand the complex biology and aggressive mechanisms driving this most malignant of brain cancers.
BCBA member biobank, the QIMR Berghofer/RBWH Brain Cancer and Cell Culture Bank, is at the forefront in the creation of these cell lines which are enabling ground breaking studies, such as the seminal work of Prof Bryan Day and his team at the Sid Faithfull Laboratory, recently published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica. The researchers used the cell lines to identify and define the role of an aggressive driver of GBM growth - the cell receptor, Dystroglycan. The team is now working to develop therapeutic antibodies to target and block the action of this deadly cell receptor.
Read more about this research in Acta Neuropathologica
BCBA's fundraising arm - the Brain Cancer Collective - has launched an Appeal to raise funds to prioritise the development of our Virtual Care Coordination Platform project.
Having a care coordinator to assess needs, make appropriate referrals, provide clinical advice and other support, is not only helpful, but crucial to providing the high quality care that enhances patient quality of life and improves survival rates. Make a tax time donation to help us connect brain cancer patients and their carers to the resources and expert clinical advice they need, regardless of where they live or what their circumstances.
The Australasian Biospecimen Network Association (ABNA) is the incorporated body for professional biobankers. The association is focused on supporting and promoting best practice biobanking in Australia and New Zealand. BCBA was honoured to be featured in the ABNA’s latest newsletter showcasing brain cancer biobanking activities across Australasia. We thank the ABNA for this opportunity to highlight the operations and innovative projects of BCBA - Australia’s first biobanking consortium .
Please click here to read the article.
This month we feature Ross Bowles – a 60yr old brain cancer survivor, Australian Masters cycling champion and one of BCBA’s greatest supporters.
Cycling has been Ross’s great strength as he deals with the after effects of his diagnosis and treatment, but his most recent exploit – a gruelling 17hr ride to the height of Mt Everest - was nothing short of incredible.
Meet Ross as he talks about brain cancer and his fundraising Everest challenge or donate here.
In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic Cancer Australia has launched a dedicated hub to provide health professionals and researchers with up-to-date, evidence-based resources and guidance from Australian and international organisations.
Interim guidelines for the handling and processing of biospecimens associated with Coronavirus Disease 2019 have been released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (USA).
The 2020 Bike Ride for Brain Cancer has been postponed until 19 - 20 March 2021 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. We are very grateful to our sponsors, riders and donors for maintaining their support and wish everyone well.
The recently established Alfred Brain Tumour Bio-databank is off and running with their donor recruitment. A total of 75 patients have been consented to donate tissue since June 2019, with 45 samples and associated high-quality clinical information already in the bio-databank. These tissue and data donations from patients are an incredibly valuable contribution to improving our understanding of brain tumours. This type of collaboration between clinicians, researchers and patients is what is needed to improve precision in diagnosis and treatment of brain cancer.
We welcome The Alfred Brain Tumour Bio-databank to the BCBA network!
Our 2020 event will see over 50 cyclists taking on the 2 day 240km ride from Sydney to the Hunter Valley, including one of our own, COGNO Clinical Research Fellow, Ben Kong. Ben will be riding alongside other clinicians, family and friends of brain cancer patients, as well as a number of brave individuals who are living with the disease. We hope that you will get behind their efforts by visiting our ride website and supporting a rider or making a donation.
19th - 20th March 2021
BCBA’s fundraising arm, the Brain Cancer Collective, will now hold its annual 2 day 240km Bike Ride for Brain Cancer on 19th and 20th March in 2021. The riders will regroup for the boutique event that takes a scenic route from Sydney to the Hunter Valley and finishes with a long lunch in the beautiful grounds of Calais Estate Winery. We hope that you will support our efforts to advance brain cancer research by visiting our website and supporting a rider or making a donation.
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