FIONA Elsey Cancer Research Institute is calling on anyone undergoing a biopsy or blood test for potential cancer to consider offering a little up to help provide answers.
All visiting international experts say a big part of what makes cancer research work so well in Ballarat is good access to tissue samples, particularly for PhD candidates. FECRI's tissue bank is expanding and in its final redevelopment stages to ensure sample protection and growth.
The institute remains active during coronavirus lockdowns, including its newly-launched breast cancer research program boosted by efforts in Ballarat Cycle Classic this year.
To do this work, FECRI relies on patient tissue samples.
FECRI honourary director George Kannourakis said when asked, patients almost always agreed but the pressure on busy doctors meant the question was often overlooked. Professor Kannourakis encouraged patients to speak up, to know they could explore this option that was so vital to work cracking the cancer code in Ballarat.
"It doesn't matter what cancer or blood disorder you might have," Professor Kannourakis said.
"Almost all our research is looking at immune systems to attack cancer...Biopsies or blood tests allows us lots of research and eventually allows us to find the proteins blocking the immune system from killing the cancer cells, then we can lift the fog surrounding the cancer cells with antibodies.
"Every individual cancer has a unique set of proteins on the surface. If we can identify different proteins, we can determine the barcode unique to everyone's cancer."
It doesn't matter what cancer or blood disorder you might have...If we can identify different proteins, we can determine the barcode unique to everyone's cancer.- Professor George Kannourakis, FECRI
Tissue from Fiona Elsey was the first donated to Ballarat cancer research almost 30 years ago and is still used in the laboratory. Fiona was 13 when she died with a rare cancerous tumour in her stomach.
Fiona was a fierce champion for cancer research in her hometown and FECRI remains the only cancer research institute in regional Australia.
FECRI has now amassed more than 3500 tissue samples. This has grown by 1150 in the past six months and includes healthy samples too.
Every sample is de-identified for privacy but consent can allow for future tissue or blood samples from follow-up testing to help scientists follow changes.
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