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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.
2009 Turning Point