Eastern Courier : April 15th 2011
www.easterncourier.co.nz Friday, April 15, 2011 Research breakthrough: Stuart Ryan works in the tissue bank at Middlemore Hospital which will provide valuable cancer research. Photo: NICOLA WILLIAMS Sampling for a cure By NICOLA WILLIAMS ' We are hoping to have 300 donors a year giving samples and that will see us very busy. ' -- Dr Stuart Ryan A CURE for cancer could be waiting to be found at Middlemore Hospital. Tissue bank staff have been collecting samples for research purposes since December. Drugs that make the dif- ference between life and death have been developed through tissue sampling,'' general manager Stuart Ryan says. A unique feature of the Middlemore tissue bank is the collection of ethnic- specific samples. Researchers will be able to investigate the different effects of current and poten- tial new cancer therapies on the Maori and Pacific popu- lation. Currently there is very little knowledge in this area. When tissue samples are taken for medical diagnosis the patient is asked if they will agree to a portion being kept at the bank where material is stored at -80 degrees celsius. Eighty percent of people approached have agreed but the Maori and Pacific popu- lation hasn't been so keen. Dr Ryan says reluctance stems from cultural beliefs that the body is sacred and parts of it shouldn't be separated. The idea of having a sample taken for biopsy is acceptable because it's about treating a disease, but in terms of relinquishing a sample to go somewhere where they don't know where it is is quite a cultural issue. We are working with a Maori leader to develop edu- cation material to help people understand what's trying to be achieved,'' he says. His view is that Maori should not deny themselves the opportunity to benefit from research. It has the potential to provide health benefits to Maori.'' Thirty-three samples have been collected since Decem- ber. You need to have a certain critical mass of samples before you start releasing them and we haven't reached that yet,'' Dr Ryan says. Staff have started by collecting samples of the most common types of cancers but will extend to gathering a wide range. We are hoping to have 300 donors a year giving samples and that will see us very busy. Within 12 to 18 months we would have sufficient samples to make them avail- able to researchers,'' Dr Ryan says. The tissue bank's official opening on Wednesday marks its recognition as a nationally significant research facility. The Counties Manukau District Health Board pro- vided funding for the facility and the Freemasons are giv- ing a three-year operational grant. Our vision is that this tis- sue bank not only collects tis- sue from Counties Manukau but we grow to be able to house a collection from across the Auckland region,'' Dr Ryan says. The most important part of cancer research is the tissue samples, they are the single most valuable resource we can collect.''
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