• 2009 Turning Point

    A project to bank on

    cancer tissue samplesCancer tissue samples help WCP researchers in their search for biomarkers. 

    To learn whether breast cancers leave telltale signs of themselves in the bloodstream, researchers need to examine samples of tumor tissue – several thousand of them, ideally.

    Ian Krop, MD, PhD, and Deborah Dillon, MD, of Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center are working to create just such a repository for Women's Cancers Program scientists. With tumor tissue from current and former breast cancer patients, the bank will assist the search for cancer biomarkers – proteins and other substances in the blood that can reveal whether a tumor has formed and whether a therapy is effective.

    Researchers will be able to divide the samples into distinct categories to identify biomarkers associated with each type. "We'd like to study reasonably uniform cohorts of patients who have received similar treatments," says Dr. Krop. "By examining large numbers of samples, we can have confidence that our findings will be broadly applicable to each group of patients."

    The project involves a sizable commitment of effort and funds. Systems need to be put in place for collecting tumor tissue shortly after surgical removal, preserving it, staining it to show possible biomarkers, and cross-linking the data with patients' medical history. The rewards, both in terms of improved tumor detection and more rapid development of treatments, promise to be substantial.

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