ProMedica, UT form biorepository to store samplesWritten by Brigitta Burks | News Editor | BBurks@toledofreepress.com
ProMedica and the University of Toledo announced May 9 the opening of a biorepository that could help researchers find treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and more.
The Academic Health Center BioRepository (AHCBR) is the product of the Academic Health Center, the partnership between ProMedica and UT that began in 2010. The biorepository’s startup was funded through donations to the Toledo Hospital Foundation.
A biorepository serves as a bank for blood and tissue that can be used for research purposes. With patient approval, specimens can be collected from leftover tissue that resulted from medical procedures like biopsies. The biorepository is equipped with freezers to store the specimens, which would normally be discarded. The blood and tissue will be collected at the Toledo Hospital to start, but expansion to the University of Toledo Medical Center and other facilities is anticipated.
Dr. Debra Gmerek, associate dean for research at UT, said she heard about the need for a tissue-collection center when she began her job three years ago. “I kept hearing we need a biorepository and here we are,” she said at the opening reception.
“Once you start talking, you get ideas. You may not agree, but ideas lead to action,” said Randy Oostra, president and CEO of ProMedica. The Academic Health Center has mostly focused on education until now.
Oostra added that the biorepository could have a positive economic impact on the area, something Dr. Jeffrey Gold echoed.
Gold, the UT chancellor and executive vice president of biosciences and health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine, said the economic impact of academic health centers totals in at billions and that the centers are responsible for many jobs. Still, he added that changes do need to be made in health care overall.
“Solutions are going to be found locally, not nationally,” Gold said. These solutions could mean more individualized treatment of patients, something the biorepository could help facilitate.
The AHCBR gives researchers a chance to learn more about biomarkers, which are substances or molecules found in the tissue that can be used as clues to develop individualized treatments for cancer, said Dr. James Willey, professor and director ofUT’s Cancer Research Center.
Dr. Michael McPhee, a ProMedica surgical oncologist, added that patients are also seeking out newer, progressive treatments.
“We’re in a new era now. It’s called participatory medicine,” McPhee said. He gave an example of two patients he had with melanoma. The one who pursued standard treatment died while the other who researched the disease and participated in a clinical trial beat the cancer. Clinical trials could result from research done because of the AHCBR, McPhee said.
Dr. Yasmin Isler will serve as the AHCBR’S research specialist. Isler heard about the upcoming center while finishing up her doctorate in chemistry at Kent State University and moved to Toledo in January.
“My day-to-day job is to find out everything there is to know about biorepositories. What they need, how they function,” she said.
Isler said she expects the first blood/tissue sample to be taken sometime during the summer. The AHCBR, located in the department of pathology at ProMedica Toledo Hospital, is almost ready to open.
“We are ready to go. The only thing we have to do now is to resolve the standard procedures so that we know exactly what it is we’re going to do when it comes time to collect the tissue,” Isler said.
She does have plans in place. When Isler learns a researcher needs a certain type of tissue and is able to connect with a patient meeting the criteria, she plans to meet with that patient to go through the informed consent process. Once a signature and authorization is obtained, a blood sample will be taken and a tissue sample can be collected after a medical procedure. Although some biorepositories use cadavers, Toledo’s will not, Isler said.
For more information, visit the website www.betterfuturetogether.org.