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Tissue Banks

Tissue Banks

The numerous tissue banks and registries on the Campus provide the research community with access to a wide range of fresh, frozen, paraffin processed and sectioned tissue for translational research and drug discovery purposes.



The Campus houses multiple tissue banks and biorepositories of ethically obtained, well-characterised biological samples with additional bio-samples available from commercial tissue banks located nearby. A key strategy of the BRC has been to invest in and strengthen facilities for the collection, storage and analysis of tissue and samples from patients and healthy volunteers. There are particular strengths in tumour banking. Cambridge was selected as one of only six clinical hubs of the Stratified Medicine Programme, a Cancer Research UK initiative, working together with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and the Government to establish a national service making standardised, high quality, cost-effective genetic testing of tumours available for people with cancer within the NHS.

The introduction of eHospital provides an opportunity to approach all patients attending CUH for electronic consent for the use of data and samples, including tissue, for research. The NIHR Cambridge BRC has experience of collection of samples from large cohorts (BioResource, INTERVAL, NIHR Rare Diseases Translational Research Collaboration), and works with UK Biobank and the NIHR Biosample Centre for storage and retrieval of samples.
Cambridge BioResourcePioneered by Cambridge, resource of ~15,000 volunteers who are willing to be approached and invited to participate in local research studies investigating the links between genes, the environment and common disease. The panel consists of health volunteers as well as patients with common diseases such as diabetes, lupus and stroke. Volunteers who join the Cambridge BioResource donate their DNA via a blood or saliva sample; their DNA can then be used together with their phenotypic data, such as age, gender and ethnicity, as the basis for selection and recruitment of best-matched volunteers to research studies. BioResource team recruits volunteers through displays at the hospital, shopping centres and schools and colleges, and has a mobile recruitment unit which recruits from the community.

NIHR BioResource – Rare DiseasesAims to enrol and collect blood samples and clinical data from at least 10,000 patients with rare diseases and their close relatives
− NIHR has provided funds for sequencing of DNA samples under the condition that clinical data are deposited in the NIHR BioResource database and biological samples (DNA, plasma and serum) are archived in the BioResource and become available to third parties after a 12 month period during which the research team will have exclusive access
− European tender process to purchase WGS capacity was completed in October 2013, when a contract was signed with Illumina Ltd for the production of WGS on 10,000 samples from patients with rare diseases
− capacity comprises 8,000 NIHR BioResource – Rare Disease samples for the 13 approved BRIDGE projects and 2,000 samples for a Rare Disease pilot by Genomics England Ltd
− 8650 patients have been recruited to date to the NIHR BioResource Rare Diseases

− 13 sequencing programmes for rare diseases have been initiated for (1) bleeding and platelet disorders (Ouwehand), (2) pulmonary arterial hypertension (Morrell), (3) primary immune disorders (Smith), (4) specialist pathology: evaluating WGS in diagnostics (Raymond), (5) steroid resistant nephrotic syndrome (Koziell), (6) primary membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (Gale), (7) Ehler-Danlos (ED) and ED-like syndromes (Aitman), (8) multiple primary malignant tumours (Maher), (9) intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy (Williamson), (10) Myofilament-gene negative Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (Watkins),(11) Neuropathic Pain Disorder (Woods), (12) Cerebral small vessel disease (Markus), (13) Stem Cell & Myeloid Disorder (Robertson)
Biorepository160 m2 of space is being refurbished with funding from NIHR Cambridge BRC and MRC Epidemiology Unit to create a Biorepository for the storage and automated retrieval of plasma, serum and DNA, in particular from the Cambridge BioResource, thereby linking projects and samples from every activity across the BRC and the campus. This will provide a facility for smart storage, retrieval and rearraying of samples prior to high throughput measurement; overseen by a management committee with representation from NIHR Cambridge BRC, the University and MRC; run on a cost recovery basis by the partners
Translational Research Laboratory – Haematological MalignanciesThe Translational Research Laboratory undertakes sample processing, banking and analysis. The TRL is based in a designated laboratory in the NHSBT building adjacent to research laboratories and to the GMP facility. The main role of the TRL is to process and store a variety of purified cell populations from blood or bone marrow obtained from a wide range of haematological malignancies. It is closely associated with the Regional Haemato-oncology Diagnostic Service which attracts samples from throughout the Eastern Region. Banked samples support multiple research programs in multiple university departments and neighbouring institutes. Sample banking is most advanced for the myeloproliferative program (1 Nature, 4 NEJM and 2 Lancet papers in the past 5 years) and is currently being extended to include myelodysplasia, myeloma, and acute myeloid leukaemia together with normal haematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.
Cambridge Brain BankThe Cambridge Brain Bank was established in 1975 in order for researchers to have access to brain tissue after death to investigate disorders of the nervous system and offers a well-characterised resource of frozen, paraffin embedded and sectioned brain tissue from donors with Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, Motor Neurone disease and Huntington’s disease. Some normal control brain tissue from people without neurological disorders is also available. The Brain Bank has been inspected as part of the Pathology HTA Licence and employs a Specialist Research Nurse who speaks to families about consent and deals with arrangements during the donation process. The facility routinely supplies material to researchers working in the Neuroscience BRC theme as well as University and Medical Research Council (MRC) funded research projects. See table below.
Cancer Cell LibraryCambridge Cancer Centre stores large collections of tissue samples from breast, prostate, oesophageal, and ovarian tumours for research; enables scientists to analyse different types of tumour cells and to study the way tumour cells develop as the cancer advances; results of these studies will help to improve the early diagnosis of the disease, to predict how the disease will develop and to make sure patients are given the best treatment for their particular type of tumour
GMP Resource for Stem Cells and Regenerative MedicineHoused within NHS Blood and Transplant; provides a high throughput resource for derivation, characterisation and maintenance of numerous types of human cells including embryonic stem cells
UK Prostate Cancer Sample Collection Database ProMPT and the Southern Collaborative have built up an extensive collection of human samples, derived bio-materials such as DNA and RNA, urine, fresh and paraffin embedded tissue materials. This joint database was established to highlight to the research community the facilities that are available potentially for collaborative studies with the 2 respective groups. Relatively small amounts of material may be released for proof of principle studies but for larger studies, these go to the Scientific Advisory Committee to review quality. Contributing organisations are responsible for making sure that samples are collected in accordance with the Human Tissue Act and are stored in HTA licenced premises.
Cambridge CardioResourceCambridge CardioResource has been established to test the feasibility, acceptability and scalability of different approaches for collecting research samples and data, within the NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) framework, for the study of genetic and environmental influences on cardiovascular diseases. Cambridge CardioResource will recruit up to 2,500 male and female blood donors, aged >17 years. At routine donation sessions, protocols will be tested for collecting additional research samples and for conducting physical measurements, to provide an extensively phenotyped, healthy population group. Post donation, participants will be invited to complete questionnaires relating their health and lifestyle and their attitudes to donating blood and taking part in the research. Furthermore the feasibility of linking donor records with existing health databases (e.g. Myocardial Ischaemia National Audit Project registry) will be tested, providing the potential for detailed characterisation of incident cardiovascular disease endpoints.

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