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Tissue Donations Help Advance Research

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By Mary Brolley and Bayan Raji, Staff Writers

When people are diagnosed with lymphoma, they probably aren't thinking of ways to help prevent or treat the disease. However, a tissue donation to M. D. Anderson's Lymphoma Tissue Bank could help researchers do just that.

The purpose of the bank - and others like it - is to collect, process and store tissue samples for research. The samples then are distributed to research teams within M. D. Anderson as well as investigators collaborating with the institution.

Lymphoma is a general term for cancers that develop in the lymphatic system, the tissues and organs that produce, store and carry white blood cells.

Tissue aids research

The more researchers learn about lymphoma, the more they realize that each patient's disease progresses differently.

Researchers hope to advance treatment of the disease and help patients live longer.
Using the donated tissue, they will study how lymphoma develops and try new drugs on tissue samples before testing them in people. This will allow drugs that are likely to have the best chance of success to be moved rapidly from the laboratory to the clinic for the benefit of patients.

Rare lymphomas need investigation

Two types of lymphoma, follicular and diffuse large B-cell, account for about 50% of lymphoma cases diagnosed. The tissue bank is especially important for finding out more about the less common forms of lymphoma.

Researchers hope patients with less prevalent forms of the disease such as Hodgkin's lymphoma, T cell lymphoma, marginal lymphoma, Burkitt's lymphoma or people with AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) will benefit from increased research on potential treatments.

Patients are informed about process

About 400 people have enrolled in the M. D. Anderson Lymphoma Tissue Bank over the past year, and the numbers continue to grow, says Sattva Neelapu, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma at M. D. Anderson.

Doctors make it a point to inform patients about the bank and its potential value. Established patients are approached when they visit the cancer center for procedures. New patients learn early in their treatment about the bank and how they can contribute.

"We discuss tissue donation with new patients on their first visit," Neelapu says. "They have the option to accept or decline, but the majority are eager to donate their tissue for research."

Process is not inconvenient

Tissue samples for the bank are taken from biopsies performed during the diagnostic process, which means patients are not inconvenienced with special procedures to retrieve samples, Neelapu says.

"We don't stick patients simply to get tissue for the bank," he says. "At no point do we do a procedure just for research purposes."

Typically, only a portion of the tumor or tissue sample is sent to the diagnostics lab, while the remaining parts are discarded. If a patient agrees to donate tissue to the bank, left over specimens are used for research.

Research has wide-ranging effects

The advances made possible because of the Lymphoma Tissue Bank will help patients everywhere with this disease, not just those at M. D. Anderson.

"This bank is beneficial for patients, the institution and research in lymphoma in general because it will help us better understand how lymphoma starts and grows and help us develop new therapies," Neelapu says. "It also will help us develop a larger coalition with other researchers and institutions conducting lymphoma research."

A new informational brochure helps explain the process and purpose of tissue donation to patients. Neelapu hopes it will encourage patients to donate tissue.

"Great strides are being made in the treatment of this difficult disease," he says. "These advances are possible because researchers have been able to conduct research in the lab using lymphoma tissue. The more tissue we have to work with, the more advancements we can make."

M. D. Anderson resources:

Hodgkin's Disease

Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma

Sattva Neelapu, M.D.

Department of Lymphoma and Myeloma

Lymphoma and Myeloma Center


Other resources:
Overview: Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin Type (American Cancer Society)

What You Need to Know About Lymphoma (Lymphoma Research Foundation)


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