nanoString technology

Every year in Australia, around 700 children are diagnosed with cancer. The time and accuracy of this diagnosis is crucial to their ongoing care. Thanks to support from the Good Friday Appeal, The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) now has access to nanoString technology to support the rapid identification and diagnosis of these cancers.

While there are nine common types of paediatric cancer, the individual tumour variants for paediatric brain and solid tumours can vary dramatically by their unique genetic alterations and treatment.

Kids like Oli, 3, who is being treated for neuroblastoma, will be helped by nanoString Technology

Luckily for patients at the RCH, the hospital is home to an expert team of pathologists who are able to utilise cutting edge technology to molecularly confirm the diagnosis.

“Kids get a very specific group of tumours that you don’t see in adults. While we can begin to narrow down the tumour type via a microscope, we need to complete testing at a molecular level to provide an integrated diagnosis,” said Colleen D’Arcy, Paediatric Pathologist at the RCH.

“The new nanoString technology allows us to test for up to 100 different genetic alterations within a tumour in one assay, which means we can get a diagnosis faster, with minimal amounts of tissue and provide molecular information to guide therapy,” said Dr D’Arcy.

The new nanoString technology works by taking a tissue sample from the patient’s tumour and comparing it against a panel of tumour-specific RNA sequences labelled with coloured ‘barcodes’, in the hopes of finding a diagnostic match.

The ability to screen for multiple tumour-specific RNA sequences at once as part of a panel is a major advancement from the previous process which required pathologists to test for only one genetic alteration at a time.

The new nanoString technology is also much faster than those previously used, cutting down the diagnosis time from weeks to just three days.

The best part is, it’s not just helping patients at the RCH, but also those from across Australia and New Zealand. 

“This is a really exciting advancement for not only the RCH, but for children in the Asia Pacific Region. Through the support of Good Friday Appeal funding, the nanoString technology will enable our team of pathologists to test up to 24 tumour samples from other paediatric hospitals in the region every week,” said Bronwyn Christiansen, Principal Scientist, Anatomical Pathology, Laboratory Services.

Thanks to support from the Good Friday Appeal, nanoString technology is providing faster pathways to diagnosis, which means patients can receive the best care possible, and enrol in dedicated clinical trials, giving them the greatest chance of successfully fighting their cancer.  

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Children’s Cancer Centre Tissue Bank

The Children’s Cancer Centre (CCC) Tissue Bank collects solid tumour, blood and bone marrow samples from oncology patients to learn more about cancer in children.

The tissue bank staff work in collaboration with hospitals, laboratories and researchers both locally and internationally to translate those findings into potentially life-saving treatments.

“Samples are preserved with the utmost care and dignity for future clinical and research purposes. Over 50 staff including consultants, surgeons, haematologists, oncologists, specialist pathologists, researchers and research enablers work together as part of the team,” said Louise Ludlow, CCC Tissue Bank Coordinator.

“Together we are committed to improving the survival rate and long term health outcomes for children diagnosed with cancer.”

In addition to the processing of samples for clinical trials, the CCC Tissue Bank also prepares clinical samples for further molecular testing (testing for certain genes, proteins, or other molecules in a tissue sample) as standard of care.

Thanks to donor support, the CCC Tissue Bank has also participated in important research projects outside of the Melbourne Children’s campus, including research conducted by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the Memphis USA, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, and the Kid’s Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital.

“The Tissue Bank is an invaluable resource which allows us to collaborate in adequately powered international studies through sample and knowledge sharing, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of cutting edge paediatric cancer research,” Louise said.

Posted June 2020

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Brain Tumour Clinical Trials

To advance the care, treatment and diagnosis of these patients at the RCH, the Children’s Cancer Centre (CCC) identified the need for a greater enrolment in international clinical trials.

The CCC now has two Clinical Trial Coordinators administering a new clinical trials program aimed at improving overall survival and ongoing quality of life for children with cancer. Though often confused with drug trials, clinical trials are aimed at developing new or improved methods of care. This includes things like:

  • innovative drug therapies,
  • the best combination of procedures to provide more effective, and
  • less toxic treatments for better long-term quality of life.

The launch of the clinical trials programs has allowed for more individualised care for paediatric brain tumour.

Clinical trials are the backbone of careThey provide access to the best level of international care. By participating in them, children at the RCH get the same care as those in big medical centres like New York.”

– Michael Sullivan, Head of Neuro-Oncology and Solid Tumour Programs

Thanks to your generous support, funds from the Good Friday Appeal and the Cancer Crusaders Auxiliary have supported brain tumour clinical trials at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Posted May 2018

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