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New Tissue Banking DVD

The Tissue Banking Booklet.

Today we know that “smart” drugs such as Gleevec can block some of the abnormal genetic pathways that cause cancer, with little damage to normal cells. How do scientists acquire such knowledge? One way is from patients who donate their tissue to be studied. These samples, analyzed soon after they are taken or frozen in a tissue “bank” for future use, hold vital clues to the understanding, prevention, and treatment of cancer.

A new, 15-minute audiovisual program and educational booklet is now available to educate patients and families about tissue banking, why it is important, and who benefits from it. 

“Tissue banking provides the basis for discovering why some cells become cancerous and what we can do to improve outcomes,” explains Chief Medical Officer Lawrence Shulman, MD, on the DVD. “For example, to develop treatments for HER2 breast cancer, we needed thousands of sample tumors.”

When human tissue is removed during a medical procedure such as an operation, biopsy, or blood test, the leftover portion can be sent to a tissue bank (several of which are located at Dana-Farber), where it is preserved. Not only can the sample help doctors tailor therapy to a patient’s particular cancer; research done on the extra tissue, with a patient’s written consent, can help others.

Christina Parker, MD, associate director for Faculty Activities at DFCI who also created an award-winning video in 2005 that explains the pluses and minuses of enrolling in clinical trials, developed the new DVD. She says both programs are intended to increase understanding, not enrollment, and she consulted with the Adult Patient and Family Advisory Council to plan them. “You must have a collaborative relationship with patients to get a good video,” she says. “It wasn’t about me deciding what the video should be. Patients and families shaped it.”

Because of patient privacy laws, informed consent for tissue banking is key. The actual piece of tissue is very helpful, but it is even more valuable if patients are willing to share personal information such as gender, age, or medical history, and grant scientists access to their medical records. They can also agree to be contacted in the future by investigators who want to check on their health status. Researchers can then link this information to various outcomes, such as whether someone receiving a certain type of treatment went into remission or had a recurrence.

As with the clinical trials video, patients express a strong desire to help improve cancer treatments for future patients. “I feel wholeheartedly that I was able to contribute to someone being healed cured, or treated,” says Brenda Henry-Brown, co-chair of the Adult Patient and Family Advisory Council.

The DVD, available in English and Spanish, was produced by Rose Productions and funded by the National Cancer Institute. It is available for viewing here.