Published: 2022-02-01 09:42 | Updated: 2022-02-01 09:45

The Swedish Childhood Tumor Biobank at OnkPat is allocated increased funding from the Childhood Cancer Fund

As a strategic investment, the Swedish Childhood Tumor Biobank will be allocated SEK 12 million for whole-genome sequencing of tumor and blood samples not yet analysed in the sample collection. The annual grant is increased to SEK 19 million for 2022. The GMS Childhood Cancer project receives multi-year support of a total of SEK 24 million. A project coordinator to enhance collaboration with the pediatric leukemia sample collection in Uppsala will be appointed, as a further strategic investment.

The Swedish Childhood Tumor Biobank (Barntumörbanken, BTB) is a research infrastructure, a collaborative project and a national sample collection for solid childhood tumors. BTB performs whole genome sequencing, whole transcriptome sequencing and methylation array profiling on collected biobank samples. The analyses are conducted at SciLifeLab. Both samples and molecular genetic/genomic data are available to authorized researchers after an application process. BTB also provides service for clinical studies. The Childhood Cancer Fund (Barncancerfonden, BCF) finances the entire project, which mainly takes place at the Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet. Karolinska University Hospital is the research principal and personal data controller for BTB and Stockholm's medical biobank is the responsible biobank. The overall purpose of BTB is to contribute to increased biological knowledge about tumor diseases in children, that can lead to better treatment and survival for these patients.

Strategic investments for the year 2022

BCF is making several investments in BTB this year. To enable whole genome sequencing data to be generated from all the cases where sufficient material is available in the sample collection, and for those that have not already been analysed, BTB is allocated SEK 12 million as a strategic investment. In addition, transcriptome sequencing and methylation array analyses will take place for all these cases. BTB's operating budget for the present year of SEK 19 million therefore also covers the costs of those analyses. The investments to be made 2022 as well include increased data storage and additional lab resources. Since 2013, BTB has been collecting different sample types from children with intracaranial and extracranial solid tumors in collaboration with all six university hospitals that biopsy, treat and operate on children with cancer in Sweden. From almost 90% of the childhood cancer patients, consent and biobank samples are submitted to BTB. In addition to the fresh frozen surplus (after diagnosis) tumor tissue, blood samples, CSF samples and HE slides for the child, blood is also collected from parents. Viable tumor cells are moreover collected from a couple of hospital centres.

BTB currently has more than 19 500 samples from approximately 1700 pediatric cancer patient cases, and their parents. As well as more than 19 000 DNA and RNA aliquots from a fraction of the samples, prepared by BTB. For whole genome sequencing of the tumor, a reference sample (blood sample) is also needed, and from approximately 1100 cases, there are today both tumor and blood samples. Around 370 cases have already been analysed using the three large-scale methods under the auspices of BTB. With the targeted and expanded investment for 2022, approximately another 450 cases can be analysed. This is also with regard to the exclusion that occurs due to too little and/or non-representative material for approximately 10% of the cases. Furthermore, BTB is responsible for storing whole genome data, whole transcriptome data and methylation array data generated since 2021 in the national project GMS Childhood Cancer to later make this available to authorized researchers. These are the same patients from whom BTB collects biobank samples, and for those who are analysed within the GMS project, BTB thus does not need to repeat the analyses.

GMS Childhood Cancer is an initiative and a study to implement whole genome sequencing in childhood cancer care in Sweden. BTB is involved in coordinating the project and is responsible for the funds from BCF. The project has previously been allocated SEK 15 million to be used now in 2022. In addition, BCF has decided to support with SEK 24 million over five years (2022-2026). Today, almost 100 patients have been included and analysed and in 2021 a special initiative from the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs paid for the larger parts of the project. In 2022, more than 200 patient analyses are expected to take place, as leukemia samples will now also be included, so the ambition is that all children with a suspected malignant disease should be offered whole genome sequencing, as well as whole transcriptome sequencing and methylation array profiling. During the year, the first 100 cases will also be evaluated with regard to clinical, and if possible health economic, benefits.

There is a nordic pediatric leukemia sample collection in Uppsala (NLBB), which is funded by BCF, and as a further strategic investment, both NLBB and BTB are awarded grants for a project coordinator who will work to increase collaboration between the two sample collections and infrastructures. This will also include the GMS Childhood Cancer Project as BTB will assist with the storage of data also from the genome analyses of leukemia patients.

Johanna Sandgren, director for the Swedish Childhood Tumor Biobank at OnkPat and doctor of medical sciences, looks forward with confidence to 2022, which will be an exciting and productive year for BTB. The BTB and GMS initiatives will in all probability increase biological knowledge and benefit research in the field of childhood cancer. BTB will also work more to make the sample collection and our resources visible, including genomic data, so that they can be used even more in relevant research projects.