A fresh-frozen primary tissue bank—fully annotated and collaborative—has never been achieved before in melanoma, and it has taken more than a decade of dedicated work to accomplish. The IMTBC is a global first because of the following combination of factors
It's a consortium—the six institutions are sharing data and tissue samples with each other
It's collaborative—tissue samples and data will be available for researchers around the world to apply to study
The tissue will be fresh frozen—RNA is preserved, unlike in the standard formalin fixed, paraffin embedded process
The tumors are primary—not metastasized
There will be a critical mass—a goal of 500 in the first two years, and continued collection thereafter
Full annotation will accompany each tissue—patient data, including full medical history (depersonalized) will be available for study along with the tissue
Samples will accompany each tissue—blood and urine samples will be collected for each patient
The primary tumor is the holy grail of resources for melanoma researchers, says John M. Kirkwood, MD, Usher Professor of Medicine, Dermatology and Translational Science and co-Leader, Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. We know the information we seek about melanoma is available in primary tumors, but researchers need a critical mass of fresh frozen tissue and all the relevant patient data to understand it. We believe fresh frozen primary tissue can help us discover the answers we seek, such as whose melanomas will spread and become deadly; who will respond to immunotherapies; and—ultimately—how we can cure this disease.
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is one of six branches of the IMTBC—four in the United States and two in Australia. The remaining locations have approved their contracts to become fully functioning branches of the IMTBC and are awaiting only final details before they too will open and accelerate the collection of tissue.
Fifteen years ago, many researchers told me that a collaborative fresh-frozen primary tissue bank would propel research, but they also told me it would be impossible to accomplish, says Val Guild, the Founder & President of AIM at Melanoma, who lost her 26 year old daughter, Charlie, to the disease in 2003. And there were times over the years that I felt like giving up. But I'm extremely proud to announce this grand opening of the UPMC branch of the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium today, on what would have been my daughter Charlie's 42nd birthday. I believe the IMTBC will help us get to the place where no family suffers as we did.