The importance oh human tissue use in research

 The use of human tissue in research has become immensely important for advancing our scientific knowledge, testing new therapies and diagnostics and understanding diseases. In addition, it is very important to analyze large numbers of samples to gain statistical power. In this context, tumour tissue removed for diagnostic testing or during surgery represents a valuable research tool. Tissue banking programs give researchers in oncology rapid access to these biological samples. 

Biobanks are at the heart of research

The search for medical knowledge allows society to continually develop and improve. Scientific research contributes to the health and wellbeing of the population and the production of scientific knowledge related to health involves many disciplines. The gathering, organizing and analysis of collected data are likely as old as research itself. Systems used to organize and store this data have evolved over time with modern techniques and technology.

All research ultimately depends on the collection and conservation of observations, information and various materials, including biological samples. Although conservation of certain types of biological material has always existed, recent scientific and technological advancements have greatly expanded the possibilities. Research on human tissue specifically necessitates the creation of biobanks. However, biobanks multiply and expand, due to the length of retention, the number of samples stored, the large geographical area covered by the bank, or the financial stakes involved.  Moreover, the convergence of technological developments and improvements in sample conservation have allowed for large-scale storage leading to cutting edge research on human tissue.

The use of databases and biobanks represents a growing interest because of their ability to overcome largely anecdotal knowledge from limited cases or specimens. From a scientific point of view, what is important is that we can collect data and samples from hundreds if not thousands of cases. The analysis of these large amounts of data and samples increases the statistical power and therefore the validity of research results.

Linking the data and biological samples directly increases the means available for research and therefore increases the chances of acquiring new knowledge. However, linking data amplifies the risk of personal identification and breaches of privacy. 

The use of biobanks and databases lies at the heart of current research practices. Consequently, biobanks and databases are essential to scientific progress. Still, it is imperative that research using these tools be implemented in a manner that respects participant autonomy and privacy. For these reasons, we aim to develop an approach that recognizes the needs of research initiatives while working to respect the rights of all concerned. 

Biomarkers and personalized medicine

We are now entering the era of personalized medicine where drug development and biomarker discovery run in parallel. The application of “-omics” technology to innovative cancer models and the development of technologies capable of high throughput screening of cancer targets and inhibitors are revolutionizing the discovery and development of cancer diagnostic tests and therapies.

The key now is to link tumour profiling with specific treatments in real time. The generation of additional algorithms based on tumour profiling will lead to an ability to assign specific therapies to each patient.

Personalised medicine has been identified by the FRQS and CIHR as an area of strategic development and both organizations are in the process of allocating funding to large scale initiatives in this field, demonstrating the importance of this emerging concept in the treatment of cancer.

One of the RRCancer’s objectives is the development of personalized medicine by identifying therapeutic targets and tumour markers using genomic screens, proteomics and bioinformatics. Matching the molecular characterization of these cancers with clinical parameters found through the biobanks will deepen our understanding of the biology of different types of cancers in order to improve patient care and reach our goal of personalized medicine.

Biobank leaders

  • Kidney cancer: Dr Jean-Baptiste Lattouf
  • Prostate cancer: Dr Fred Saad and Dr Anne-Marie Mes-Masson
  • Ovarian cancer: Dr Anne-Marie Mes-Masson and Dr Diane Provencher
  • Breast cancer: Dr Réjean Lapointe
  • Lung cancer: Dr John Stagg
  • Hepatobiliary cancer: Dr Simon Turcotte