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4000 cancer tissues banked in resource

6 August 2008

4000 cancer tissues banked in central Christchurch resource

Once referred to as a 'library with all its books on the right shelves', a valuable Christchurch resource for cancer researchers is likely to reach a new milestone.

The only one of its kind in New Zealand, the Cancer Society Tissue Bank has now received over 3,700 tissue donations – and is likely to reach 4,000 donations within the next two months.

Tumour tissue from a range of cancers including breast, bowel, kidney, prostate, ovarian and child cancers, as well as blood samples, are donated by cancer patients who consent to banking at the time of surgery – usually at the pre-admission stage.

Tissue Bank Curator, Helen Morrin says the majority of cancer patients are very keen to participate.

"We have seen a steady increase in the number of donations per year, rising from 300 in 2000 to 500 donations last year," she says.

A central banking facility is a very efficient resource when research findings are dependant upon sourcing large samples numbers which may take many years to collect.

Helen Morrin says the 45 research projects completed to date don't really illustrate the complexity and depth of research that the Tissue Bank has supported.

"So many of those projects used multiple sample preparations," she says. "For example, one project required 375 serum samples together with paraffin embedded tissues from the same donors. Another project needed 350 DNA samples and then frozen tissue.

"The value of a Tissue Bank is in the time that research can be undertaken and completed, as well as the ability to undertake this type of research.

"For example, a recent project used tissue samples from 100 different types of cancer and also 120 bowel cancer samples - those samples had taken seven years to collect because the project needed a complex sample set."

The focus of a $1.4 million fundraising appeal last year, the Cancer Society Tissue Bank resides within the University of Otago, Christchurch.

The Society will unveil a plaque commemorating the success of the appeal tomorrow as part of the official opening of the new reception in the foyer of the University of Otago, Christchurch and the launch of the largest microscope collection in the country, assembled by the Cotter Medical History Trust.

The Society's Canterbury West Coast Division Chief Executive Elizabeth Chesterman says it was essential to place the Tissue Bank on a secure financial footing.

"Around 16,000 New Zealanders develop cancer each year and this is expected to rise to 22,000 by 2011," she says. "The good news is that survival rates are increasing, due to earlier diagnosis and more effective treatment. Cancer research, through the study of human tissue, has made this possible."

"We are delighted with the outcome of the appeal. Thanks to generosity of the people of Christchurch, the future of this amazing resource is assured."


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