Stylised image of a research sample from an array scanner showing gains and losses in chromosomes. Image from Victorian Clinical Genetic Services
“It is so important to develop the expertise and capacity to undertake this testing in Australia, as it will enable us to future-proof our ability to quickly and accurately diagnose children with brain cancer and ensure Australian researchers remain at the forefront of paediatric cancer diagnostics.” - Dr Meg Wall, Acting Chief Executive Officer, VCGS
The AIM-BRAIN PROject team has successfully secured NATA accreditation for a pivotal diagnostic tool for patients diagnosed with brain cancer. This means that every Australian or New Zealand child with a brain tumour can access the accredited diagnostic test, building the clinical team’s detailed diagnosis of each child’s brain tumour and helping to tailor treatment accordingly.
From December 2022, molecular profiling developed through the AIM-BRAIN PROject (Access to Innovative Molecular Diagnostic PROfiling for Paediatric Brain Tumours) that was sponsored by Australian and New Zealand Children’s Haematology/Oncology Group (ANZCHOG) will become an accredited diagnostic test for brain cancers available from Victorian Clinical Genetic Services (VCGS).
The achievement of the NATA accreditation is a huge milestone in the transition from a research project to a certified pathology test. With the research project now closed, the test is readily available from VCGS on an ongoing basis.
Despite the outstanding success in the treatment of many childhood cancers in the past two decades, curative treatment for many children with brain cancers remains an ongoing challenge. In Australia, brain cancer kills more children than any other disease each year. Recent studies have shown that brain cancers can be classified into distinct tumour sub-groups via molecular profiling, and each of these tumour groups respond differently to various treatments.
The AIM-BRAIN PROject was established in 2017 as a research study to develop methylation array profiling for Australian and New Zealand children diagnosed with brain tumours. Initially, children were enrolled on the German-led research program, Molecular NeuroPathology 2.0 study (MNP2.0), which provided immediate access to this cutting-edge platform, while the technology was established and validated in Australia via the AIM-BRAIN PROject. NATA accreditation is a huge achievement, placing Australia alongside the United States, Canada and United Kingdom as one of the few countries world-wide to offer clinically validated methylation profiling.
“The success of AIM-BRAIN demonstrates the value of methylation profiling,” said Dr Meg Wall, Acting Chief Executive Officer of VCGS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Murdoch Children’s Research Institute. “It is so important to develop the expertise and capacity to undertake this testing in Australia, as it will enable us to future-proof our ability to quickly and accurately diagnose children with brain cancer and ensure Australian researchers remain at the forefront of paediatric cancer diagnostics.”
“NATA accreditation is a fundamental step to provide confidence around accuracy and consistency of the results, as well as longer term sustainability of the platform here in Australia,” said Professor Nick Gottardo, Chair of ANZCHOG and Co-Chair of the AIM-BRAIN PROject. “We have leveraged our connections with our international colleagues at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) so our children have access to the latest, world-leading diagnostic tools.”
“Clinically, these results complement our traditional tests and are invaluable for determining the best treatment for a child, particularly if they have a complex brain tumour. Around 20% children enrolled in the AIM-BRAIN PROject had their treatment altered due further information obtained through AIM- BRAIN. This means we are giving the most appropriate therapies to minimise the burden of treatment side-effects and give our children the greatest chance of long-term survival.”
The Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, Carrie's Beanies for Brain Cancer and the Australian Government through Cancer Australia have supported the establishment and conduct of the AIM-BRAIN PROject.
The AIM-BRAIN PROject will close to recruitment from December 2022, with patient outcomes to be followed up for a further 10 years.