Porter leads new shared resource for specimen collection

Consortium Biospecimen Resource will foster collaborations and advance solid tumor translational research by uniting existing repositories and providing a centralized collection service
Dr. Peggy Porter
"We plan to make biospecimens more accessible, and hope to foster collaborations between researchers using those biospecimens," said Dr. Peggy Porter, Human Biology Division. Center News file photo

The Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium has launched a new shared resource led by Dr. Peggy Porter of the Hutchinson Center's Human Biology Division and UW Department of Pathology. The Consortium Biospecimen Resource (CBR) will make biological specimens more readily available for research, improving disease detection and the treatment of solid tumor cancers.

Funded in its initial three years by nearly $5 million from the Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) and by the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant, the CBR will both virtually unite existing specimen repositories within the Consortium and provide a centralized specimen collection service for researchers.
"We plan to make biospecimens more accessible, and hope to foster collaborations between researchers using those biospecimens," Porter said.
The CBR will provide two main services:

  • A centralized, online database through which investigators can access a list of Consortium repository holdings. Researchers interested in using these samples will be put in touch with the repositories' owners. Access to blood and tissue samples from cancer patients and healthy donors is critical for developing new tests to diagnose and treat cancer.
  • A prospective specimen collection service through which researchers will be able to request tissue or blood sample collection according to the specific parameters of their study, if existing stored specimens don't meet their research needs.

A biospecimen resource model for others to follow

The Consortium houses several successful specimen repositories, including the Specialized Program of Research Excellence Ovarian Cancer and Prostate Cancer repositories and the Center's Breast Specimen Repository, which Porter leads. Blood and tissue samples from these repositories have been used in a variety of studies, including studies for early cancer detection and immunotherapy. Porter saw that many additional repositories of different tissue types existed at the Center and UW and realized there was the potential for improving research collaborations, streamlining operations and reducing redundancies by uniting these different sample collection efforts and services into one shared resource.

"The LSDF grant offers us a unique opportunity to build a biospecimen resource that will be a model to others across the country," said the Human Biology Division's Dr. Barbara Stein, director of the CBR.

In collaboration with the UW's Institute of Translational Health Sciences, Porter and her group are developing an innovative database structure to automatically track and annotate all specimens collected through the centralized repository. The resource will have a website where investigators can search all existing Consortium repositories or request specimen collection. The site will also serve to educate and inform our patient community and our potential specimen donors, Stein said.

Biospecimen availability

For researchers requesting specimen collection by the CBR, samples will be taken from UW and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance patients who consent to donate tissue or blood. This resource will provide an important link between Consortium researchers and the Consortium’s phase 1 clinical trials unit, the SCCA's newly dedicated unit for cancer patients volunteering to be part of first-phase clinical drug studies, Porter said. Availability of biospecimens will also be enhanced at the UW through an LSDF-funded program led by Dr. John Slattery, vice dean for research and graduate education at the UW School of Medicine, to broaden access to noncancer biospecimens. Slattery and Porter are working together to streamline the acquisition of blood samples from the clinical laboratories and to obtain specimens for special Consortium projects.

"Improving access to biospecimens is critical to advancing solid tumor translational research at the Center and throughout the Consortium," said Dr. Mark Groudine, Center executive vice president and deputy director. "This new resource will be catalytic to these translational efforts, and Peggy has done a terrific job in getting this new program off the ground."

For more information, visit the CBR website.

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