Innovative research improving brain cancer treatment

Professor Leonie Quinn (L) and ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith (R) in a lab of the John Curtin School of Medical Research

Professor Leonie Quinn (L) and ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith (R). Photo: Kassapa Senarath

ACT Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith, during a visit to the John Curtin School of Medical Research (JCSMR) on 24 August 2023, congratulated Professor Leonie Quinn and her team for their dedicated work to establish Canberra’s first Brain Cancer Biobank under the ACT Health Research Innovation Fund grant.

Appreciating Professor Quinn and her team’s achievement, Minister Stephen-Smith said: “for the first time, Canberrans with brain cancer will have the opportunity to access cutting-edge genomics-based analysis of their cancer which will help their healthcare team direct them to current clinical trials and emerging treatments.”

Canberra Brain Cancer Collaborative, headed by Professor Leonie Quinn and her team, created the biobank using the $300,000 grant awarded at the 2022 Research Innovation Fund funding round.

Speaking to the media present on the occasion, Professor Quinn mentioned that although the survival rate for many cancers has increased significantly in the past two decades, outcomes for brain cancer patients has remained poor. She outlined that disconnection between research and clinic, absence of preclinical models for drug discovery that reflect the developing brain and functional significance of brain tumour driver genes is yet being unknown are key reasons for the lack of progress in brain cancer treatment.

 “The ACT Health Research Innovation Fund has provided the researchers an exciting opportunity to explore the complex environment where brain cancer occurs and ultimately develop new treatments,” Professor Quinn said.

“The biobank will enable more personalised treatments, which are critical to improving survival rates and quality of life for people diagnosed with the disease. It will secure the ACT as a health research hub and improve the clinical experience of cancer patients around Australia,” she said.

Professor Quinn thanked her team, The Quinn Group, including ACT Brain Cancer Biobank Manager Naomi Mitchell, for their efforts on building this facility which will help change brain cancer treatment in the future.

The biobank stores brain cancer biospecimens and genomic data from patients treated at The Canberra Hospital. It contributes to Brain Cancer Biobanking Australia, which allows researchers around the country to access brain cancer tissue, samples and data.

The information gathered by the biobank enables researchers at JCSMR to create 3D bio-printed ‘mini brains’ to trial new therapeutic drugs tailored to each patient’s tumour genotype and identify new biomarkers present in brain tumours.

Professor Quinn accompanied the minister on a tour at Biomolecular Resource Facility after the event. Professor Russell Gruen, Dean ANU College of Health and Medicine and Professor Elizabeth Gardiner, Acting Director JCSMR were also present at the event.

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