URMC Partners with Private Company to Create Tissue Bank for Cancer Research

Feb. 3, 2016
liquid nitrogen tanks and a lab tech
Tissue stored in liquid nitrogen tank at Indivumed facility in Hamburg, Germany

The University of Rochester Medical Center announced it’s collaborating with Indivumed, a Germany-based company, to establish a bank of human tissues and tumor samples that are expertly preserved and stored for use in cancer research.

The URMC signed a three-year agreement with Indivumed; financial details were not disclosed. Approximately 15 other research institutions have formed similar partnerships with the company — including Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania, and several medical centers in Europe — enabling a worldwide network for researchers to access the biological specimens.

“Collecting and properly preserving human tissue is critically important to cancer research, but it’s difficult to fund and requires a specialized set of skills and expertise to build such a program,” said David C. Linehan, M.D., the Seymour I. Schwartz Professor and Chair of the URMC Department of Surgery, and Associate Director of Clinical Research at the Wilmot Cancer Institute. Linehan will be the supervising investigator for the URMC-Indivumed partnership.

“Our collaboration allows this to occur in an organized, coordinated way that will benefit all cancer researchers here at Wilmot and the URMC,” Linehan said.

Top-quality tissue-banking is an invaluable resource for both cancer treatment and research.

When it comes to deciding on cancer treatment, more often doctors are considering a tumor’s unique gene characteristics and whether those pathways can be targeted with newer drugs. But in order to run the sophisticated tests that reveal a cancer’s precise genomic fingerprint, very high quality tumor specimens and tissue samples must be properly preserved with protocols designed to support genomic analysis.

And in cancer research, it’s challenging to collect and reproduce meaningful data without a reliable bank of tissue that has been preserved in a consistent way. Importantly, Linehan said, the URMC-Indivumed tissue bank will include information that correlates with patient survival, response to treatment, and whether the tumor was resistant to certain therapies, for example.

“This partnership allows us to engage in precision medicine in a much more substantive way,” said Stephen Dewhurst, Ph.D., Vice Dean for Research at the UR School of Medicine and Dentistry. “Indivumed is a world-class operation and is very interested in collaborating with our researchers to drive innovation. By participating in the Indivumed global network, we’ll have access to a critical mass of biological samples and clinical data for use in unique clinical trials for our community.”

The program starts immediately, and includes collection of many types of cancerous tissues such as pancreatic, colorectal, lung, and breast. Wilmot patients will be asked to consent to having their tissue included in the bank for research purposes.

“Attaining individualized cancer diagnosis and treatment for every patient based on reliable clinical data and molecularly intact bio specimens is our goal,” said Hartmut Juhl, M.D., founder and CEO of Indivumed, and a cancer researcher. “Our tool for achieving this goal is the establishment of a unique cancer data base using molecular information from tissues collected under stringent protocols. The University of Rochester Medical Center and its Wilmot Cancer Institute are world leaders in cancer research and clinical-care delivery and the perfect partners to change the paradigm in cancer research, making possible precision medicine for all patients.”

Added Carolyn Compton, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Indivumed’s scientific advisory board, chief medical officer of the National Biomarker Development Alliance and a former director of the National Cancer Institute Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research:  “We are facing a crisis of global proportion in the clinical and scientific community regarding reproducibility of biomedical research data, to which wide variability in the collection and utilization of biological samples for research contributes. Factors such as how long it takes to freeze samples after they are removed from the body can affect both molecular composition and quality of a tissue sample being studied. The URMC and Indivumed have positioned themselves well through this collaboration to address this most important challenge to scientific and clinical innovation.” 

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