Why Human Tissue Samples are The Key to Progress in Cancer Research


Cancer diagnosis and analysis depends on high quality oncology samples sourced from the human body. Information from cells, proteins and genes provide a large amount of useful information for clinicians and scientists studying cancer to identify the biological characteristics of various cancers. Biospecimens taken from patients provide the tissues and fluids that contain this useful data. In order to remove the DNA and RNA from the cells the tissues must meet a set of criteria that facilitate the advanced sequencing and genomic analysis technologies used for research.

The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) builds robust data sets by optimizing for both quality and quantity. TCGA builds data sets with the necessary statistical power by examining up to 500 samples from each tumor type. From these samples a comprehensive genomic profile of each cancer is attained. Each sample is analyzed across all platforms and by all teams resulting in complete and reliable views of the cancer genomes. Genomic changes are isolated by looking at both diseased and normal tissue for each cancer. TCGA tries to achieve tissue samples and resulting data of the highest quality but some cancers are more problematic than others. The availability of large amounts of high quality cancer tissue samples from tumor and matched-normals is a major factor with respect to what cancers are studied.

The Cancer Genome Atlas selects cancers for study based on poor prognoses and public health impact as well as availability of tissue samples and matched-normals. Diseased tissue specimens have been collected and analysis is underway for cancers including cervical cancer, esophageal carcinoma, liver heptocellular carcinoma and mesothelioma. All of these studies depend on fresh frozen tumor specimens taken from patients and individuals that are crucial to the research process.

Oncology tissue samples taken from individuals and patients that volunteer to donate is the gift that allows researchers to continue making gains in cancer study. Human tissue samples are the component that makes all of this work possible. Detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer is facilitated by samples provided by donation. Samples donated by cancer patients during procedures like surgical resections of tumors are integral to cancer study and are the basic element that allows contemporary research to advance.