About This Grant:
The fight against cancer needs more effective treatments and methods to detect cancer before it spreads. Doctors know all about the gaps in cancer detection and treatment. Scientists know a great deal about how cancer cells grow and spread. These two communities of experts need to work together to develop new cancer treatments and diagnostics. However, in Maine, they work in different places and don’t have much opportunity to collaborate. The Translational Research Program (TRP) at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) bridges this gap and enables doctors and scientists to work together on cancer research projects. One of the key ways that the TRP promotes this “translational” research is by collecting cancer cells from patients in the clinic and providing them to scientists in the lab. The TRP also provides scientists with important information about patient tests and how patients respond to treatments.
So far, this work has been limited to patients at EMMC. However, more patients are needed to carry out the research projects faster, and to research a greater variety of cancers than those typically treated at EMMC. The TRP proposes a project to expand its ability to collect and distribute patient cells and data. This will be accomplished by collaborating with other major cancer clinics across Maine to collect tissues and information from their patients as well, and then to distribute these valuable items to scientists, who will be able to carry out critical cancer research.
The overall goal of this project is to accelerate translational cancer research in Maine. The state of Maine has one of the highest cancer incidences in the US. It also is home to outstanding researchers uncovering basic mechanisms of tumorigenesis. All too often, however, these researchers lack the means to translate their findings in the lab into much needed tools in the clinic. They do not have direct connections with clinicians, access to high quality cancer tissue from patients, access to clinical outcomes data, nor funds to obtain commercial specimens, particularly for preliminary projects. Thus, their new ideas for innovative cancer treatments go unrealized. The oncology program at Eastern Maine Medical Center (EMMC) has initiated a long-term plan to meet this significant unmet need in cancer research. EMMC recently established a Translational Research Program, which provides a foundation for infrastructure to implement bench-to-bedside research in Maine.
This foundation includes:
- Facilities for banking and distributing fresh and frozen cancer tissue (EMMC BioBank),
- a research laboratory dedicated to human biospecimen processing and cryopreservation, and
- a clinic-based physician/scientist team that builds collaborations between the clinical and basic science communities via clinical consulting, assistance with translational research project development, and on-site human tissue-based laboratory research.
While this strong foundation has successfully supported initial translational projects, our research partners now have a need to acquire more specimens, to do this on a shorter time scale, and to obtain specimen-matched clinical data. Thus, the goal for the proposed funding period is to build a statewide BioBank Network of oncology centers to expand the availability of high quality, low cost human tumor specimens and clinical data for translational research.
To accomplish this goal, we will complete the following specific aims:
- Expand the number of participating oncology service providers and solidify relationships in our BioBank Network. We recently completed the legal, regulatory, and procedural steps need to collect tissue from a major external oncology provider in Maine. This effort now will be extended to 3 more sites that care for a significant proportion of cancer patients in the state. In addition to expanding our Specimen Network, we also will develop a Referral Network with other Maine biobanks and translational research facilitators, which have access to different types of tumors and processing methods. Thus, we will significantly grow both the scale and breadth of oncology biobanking infrastructure in Maine. Principle Investigator: Jens Rueter, MD
- Develop a comprehensive BioBank database of specimen-associated clinical data. In addition to inventory information for our expanding BioBank, a wealth of clinical data is associated with these cancer specimens. Managing these invaluable data requires a sophisticated, customized database and personnel dedicated to database maintenance. We will implement a centralized BioBank database to link specimens to clinical data and to provide remote access to clinical and research network sites across the state.
- Make human tumor specimens readily available for preliminary translational research in Maine. In the process of expanding the BioBank Network, newly acquired cancer specimens will be used to accelerate and augment our existing research collaborations as well as to start new research projects. Acquired specimens will be free of charge to Maine cancer researchers generating preliminary data for as yet unfunded projects.