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Diagnosis over a network

National Cancer Institute creates tumor bank

The National Cancer Institute (Inca) is implanting a National Tumor and DNA Bank that will be able to be used in research about the genetic profile of tumors. The project can count on US$ 4 million from the Swiss Bridge Foundation, which are to finance the creation of a network for gathering and processing samples of tissues, blood and clinical data, and on resources from the Financier of Studies and Projects (Finep) for the investments in infrastructure. Funded by FAPESP, the Clinical Genome Program – which is developing new forms of diagnosing and treating cancer -, maintains a tumor bank to which researchers from the 18 affiliated working groups have access.

The A. C. Camargo Cancer Hospital, in São Paulo, also now has over 2,000 samples of tumors stored in its tumor bank, used in research. Inca’s network will be made up of 20 university medical centers from all over the country. They will be selected on the basis of their potential for recruiting patients and on having personnel available for diagnosing, gathering and processing data. “One part of Inca’s research center is now being refurbished to house the tumor and DNA bank”, says Eloiza Helena Tajara, from the São José do Rio Preto School of Medicine and a member of the team from Inca. The teams from these research centers will be trained by Inca to ensure that all the protocols are followed properly. All the patients who agree to take part in the project will sign an informed consent document.

The National Tumor and DNA Bank, Eloiza explains, is going to make it possible to develop studies in the area of diagnostic and therapeutic markers in representative samples of the Brazilian population, since the research centers that will make up the network are scattered over the five Brazilian regions. Furthermore, it will standardize and automate procedures for collecting samples and clinical data and for following up patients that may be able to act as a model for routine hospital conduct. Access to the tumor bank will be given to researchers whose research projects have been assessed and approved by an external committee, still at the stage of being set up. The bank will be open to researchers in the next 12 months. Cancer is the second most important cause of death in Brazil. The researchers from Inca consider that genetic and environmental factors must influence, not only the differences in rates of incidence, but also the genetic characteristics of the various types of neoplasia.

Many events related to the appearance of cancerous tumors, though, remain unknown, and generally speaking few molecular markers associated with a group of neoplasms are used in medical practice. “Knowledge about the causes of these tumors is fundamental for improving the treatment of patients and has a great potential impact on programs for prevention and for the assessment of risk”, Eloiza explains.