Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Big Changes at Biobank Central

by Kate Blenner, Program Analyst, FasterCures

We at FasterCures are very pleased to announce some big changes to BiobankCentral.org, the Web site we have established to highlight the importance of biobanks to medical research. This site links researchers to resources, encourages the donation of specimens, and educates the public about the benefits of research on banked biospecimens. After interviewing key stakeholders, including patient advocates, biobank operators, and leaders in the field of biospecimen research, we will begin staging some new features and functions that will make Biobankcentral.org even more useful to visitors hoping to learn more about these critical resources.

The first of these new features is the Spotlight on Innovation which will highlight individuals and organizations doing exceptionally innovative work in biobanking. Our first Spotlight focuses on the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center, or Komen Tissue Bank (KTB) for short. This bank’s mission is to collect samples of normal, healthy breast tissue and other biospecimens from healthy women for breast cancer research. Yes, you read that correctly—normal tissue. Healthy women.

In its 1998 priorities for cancer research, the National Cancer Institute identified the lack of knowledge about the normal biology and development of the mammary gland as a significant barrier to finding a breast cancer cure. Most research to date has focused on characterizing diseased tissue, but without the frame of reference of how healthy tissue develops and functions opportunities for a cure could be missed. Complicating the issue was a shortage of normal tissue available for study. The NCI’s recommendations to address the ‘tissue issue’ languished for a few years, until some motivated advocates and clinicians at IU Simon Cancer Center decided to form the KTB.

Despite initial skepticism that healthy women would want to go through an invasive collection procedure, KTB put its faith in the motivation of the breast cancer advocacy community—and it paid off. They have collected thousands of samples to date, and communities across the country have asked KTB to set up its collection tent at their local Race for the Cure events. As bank co-founder and patient advocate Connie Rufenbarger told me: “These women have walked, they’ve written checks, they’ve lit candles—they’ve done everything they can to demonstrate they want to help. [The response] really speaks to the fact that there isn’t a whole lot you could ask that women wouldn’t give you to cure this disease.”

I hope you enjoy this first Spotlight of the Komen Tissue Bank as much as I enjoyed speaking with its remarkable founders and staff. If you have a moment, stop by the KTB Web site to find out how you can get involved in their work to find a cure. And, of course, keep an eye on BiobankCentral.org—we have many more exciting new changes to come.

1 comment:

Jim Breitfeller said...

Kate,I enjoyed you piece on BioBank Central. I think it should be extended to Melanoma. Melanoma hits 64000 a year and 8400 die each year. I hope you don't mind but I added your piece to an article I just wrote.
It is in Melanoma Missionary Blog

Thanks again

Jimmy BMelanoma_Missionary