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AIM at Melanoma Foundation Opens First Melanoma Tissue Bank in the United States


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The AIM at Melanoma Foundation recently announced the grand opening of the first branch of the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium (IMTBC) at the Hillman Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). The Pittsburgh site is the first of six global locations of the consortium. Four will be in the United States, and two will be in Australia. The remaining locations have approved their contracts to become fully functioning branches of the IMTBC and are awaiting final details before they open.

Researchers at these 6 institutions will collect a critical mass of fresh-frozen primary tumor tissues for collaborative research, with a goal of 500 samples collected in the next 2 years. A fresh-frozen primary tissue bank—fully annotated and collaborative—has never before been created in melanoma, and this one has taken more than a decade to launch.

A Global First

The IMTBC is a global first, given the following combination of factors:

  • It’s a consortium—the six institutions are sharing data and tissue samples with each other.
  • It’s collaborative—tissue samples and data will be available for researchers around the world to apply to study.
  • The tissue will be fresh frozen—RNA is preserved, unlike in the standard formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded process.
  • The tumors are primary—not -metastasized.
  • There will be a critical mass—a goal of 500 in the first 2 years and continued collection thereafter.
  • Full annotation will accompany each tissue—patient data, including the full depersonalized medical history, will be available for study along with the tissue.
  • Samples will accompany each tissue—blood and urine samples will be collected for each patient.
John M. Kirkwood, MD,

John M. Kirkwood, MD,

“The primary tumor is the holy grail of resources for melanoma researchers,” said John M. Kirkwood, MD, of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “We know the information we seek about melanoma is available in primary tumors, but researchers need a critical mass of fresh-frozen tissue and all the relevant patient data to understand it. We believe fresh-frozen primary tissue can help us discover the answers we seek, such as whose melanomas will spread and become deadly, who will respond to immunotherapies, and—ultimately—how we can cure this disease.” 


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