Flinders Medical Centre Foundation
Flinders Medical Centre Foundation




Researchers Banking on New Brain Tumour Resource

Brain Surgery First for Flinders



Researchers Banking on New Brain Tumour Resource
First Published: Investigator Newsletter - Autumn 2011

Brain Tumour research in South Australia will soon be boosted by the establishment of the state’s first brain tumour tissue repository at Flinders Medical Centre.

The SA Brain bank currently stores more than 250 brains from deceased individuals, and has another 286 future donors. This unique resource allows Flinders to lead the world in Neuroscience research into Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Dementia with Lewy Bodies.

Thanks to funding from the Flinders Medical Centre Foundation in 2009, the South Australian Brain Bank has been able to expand its program to facilitate tissue donations from patients undergoing surgery for brain tumours.

Flinders Medical Centre is one of two public hospitals in the state which conduct adult neurosurgery, with about 60 malignant and benign brain tumours removed at Flinders Medical Centre every year.

Currently after surgery, a small section of tissue is analysed by pathologists to determine what type of tumour the patient has and what course of follow-up treatment needs to be taken. Until now, the remainder has been discarded.

Patients will now be asked to give consent for some of their tumour tissue to be stored for research purposes, in a move which will allow neuroscientists and cancer researchers from Flinders and Adelaide Universities greater opportunities to conduct experiments on this abnormal tissue.

“This research has the potential to benefit patients who are diagnosed with these cancers,” Robyn Flook, SA Brain Bank Coordinator, said. “For example, research will help us better understand the tumour type and development, and this will facilitate the design of more robust and specific drug treatments.”

Robyn said the tumour bank “will bring together neurosurgeons and neuroscientists to work collaboratively and allow greater sharing of knowledge.”

“For example, FMC Surgeon Santosh Poonnoose and neuroscientist Tim Chataway are planning to use the Flinders Proteomics Faciltiy to study differences in proteins between different types of tumours and healthy brains,” Robyn said.



Brain Surgery First For Flinders
First Published: Investigator - June 2009


Flinders Medical Centre is the first hospital in South Australia to successfully improve the symptoms of people with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders by using ‘deep brain stimulation’ (DBS).


The comprehensive DBS program is being developed in South Australia by Head of Neurology at Flinders Medical Centre Associate Professor Dominic Thyagarajan and Neurosurgeon Matthew McDonald.


The four hour technique involves drilling one or two small holes into the skull under local anaesthetic while the patient is fully awake.


A fine wire (electrode) is inserted deep into selected targets in the brain involved in the control of movement, the most common target being the sub thalamic nucleus (STN). In Parkinson’s disease, the STN is over-active.


Once the wire has been placed in its exact position in the brain, it is led behind the neck (under the skin) and connected to a pacemaker device below the collar bone.


The pacemaker device is used to send electrical impulses to the tip of the electrode and stimulate the over-active STN at high frequency.


‘One theory is that the high frequency of the current shuts down the abnormal firing pattern of the STN in Parkinson’s disease,’ Associate Professor Thyagarajan said.


‘Blocking or interfering with the abnormal STN improves the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s and reduces involuntary movements produced by medication.’


Associate Professor Thyagarajan said the technique may be suitable for people with advanced Parkinson’s disease, or for those in whom medication is not working effectively.


‘Whilst this procedure significantly improves symptom control, there is still no cure for Parkinson’s disease,’ he said.


‘This technique often reduces the need for medication which can cost thousands of dollars each year for some patients.’


Deep brain stimulation is not appropriate for all patients with movement disorders. It has been used successfully in Europe since 1987 for other conditions such as depression, Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy and chronic pain. The procedure is also available in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne hospitals.

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