117IN - Biomarker development needs tissue repositories: No honey without bees

Date 01 October 2012
Event ESMO Congress 2012
Session ESMO-ESP Joint Symposium: Molecular diagnostics for personalized cancer treatment
Topics Pathology/Molecular Biology
Translational Research
Basic Scientific Principles
Basic Principles in the Management and Treatment (of cancer)
Presenter Hans-Anton Lehr
Authors H. Lehr
  • -, IUP Institut Universitaire de Pathologie de Lausanne, 1011 - Lausanne/CH


Pathologists have traditionally archived the tissues on which they have established the diagnoses for their patients. Like many other professional societies, the Swiss Society for Pathology has recommended that paraffin blocks be retained for a minimum of 20 years (40 years for pediatric tumors). In addition to paraffin blocks, fresh tumor and non-tumorous tissues can be frozen rapidly and kept for many years in freezers at -80°C or in nitrogen tanks. The research value of these archived tissues depends largely on the disposition of clinical information, on patient survival, and – ideally – on data concerning tumor response to treatment (chemotherapy, targeted treatments). With this information, combined with the modern tools of molecular pathology, notably deep sequencing, novel cancer markers with prognostic and/or predicitve values can be detected in historic cohorts and verified in independent historic cohorts, before ultimately being tested prospectively in “new” cancer patients (the “honey”). Certainly, this can only be successful, (i) if the material is adequately stored and quality-controlled (is there truely invasive carcinoma in the tissue block ?), (ii) if the logistics for clinical data management is professionally organized, and (iii) if there exists an understanding and a consent of the patients whose tissues are to be used for research. The first two tasks lay in the hands of professionals who run the bank (pathologists, technicians, data managers), and have to be compensated for their work (the “bees”). The third task needs to be solved at the level of the general population. The last few years have seen many fruitful discussions and conferences dedicated to establishing a consensus between the general population (patients) and the scientific community (researchers). A recent survey among 1600 French- and German-speaking Swiss citizens has shown that the population is highly- and quite unconditionally - in favor of biobanking for research, provided that patients are properly informed and that their (written) consent is asked.


The author has declared no conflicts of interest.