During this milestone year for the Foundation, we look back at all of our successes and accomplishments over the past 40 years. Without a doubt, one of the biggest and most innovative achievements in CLCRF’s history was funding Western Australia’s first Cancer Tissue Bank.
This achievement was made possible by Professor Ursula Kees, Swiss-born scientist that was recruited from the German Cancer Research Centre in 1984 to head up the CLCRF Laboratory at Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).
“I made a list of equipment for the laboratory,” explained Professor Ursula Kees. “One of the most expensive items on my list was a liquid nitrogen tank. Back then, no-one at the hospital or in research labs in WA used such tanks. That very tank was in operation for more than 20 years, a very good investment.”
Contained within that liquid nitrogen was the first Cancer Tissue Bank, which was developed at least ten years before any other was started for research in adult cancers. Parents of would sign off on samples of material from their children diagnosed at PMH which would then go to the laboratory for testing.
Through the Cancer Tissue Bank, Professor Kees’ research team started growing cancer cells in the lab. “Because most patient specimens are very small, they do not provide enough material for our research,” said Professor Kees. “So we developed a method to keep the tumour cells alive in the laboratory so we could expand the cell numbers.”
The CLCRF-funded team became known internationally for their ability to grow cancer cells in the lab, with the cell lines being in high demand by researchers around the globe. The bank contains several thousand leukaemia and tumour specimens and the outstanding collection still forms an important part of the research into childhood cancers today.
We take great pride in funding WA’s first Cancer Tissue Bank and have been thrilled to see the worldwide collaboration with the bank contributing to positive outcomes for a number of families.