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Find out the history of the Tissue Bank and our work.
The Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank is the UK’s largest unique collection of high-quality breast tissue, breast cells and blood samples from breast cancer patients. These samples are made available to researchers to give them the ability to study real breast cancer samples from different angles.
To date, it has collected over 126,000 samples and has already allocated over 12,000 samples to research projects.
We asked leading scientists about the greatest challenges faced by breast cancer research. They told us that a lack of access to high-quality tissue to study and better understand the disease was a major problem. We were determined to solve this and set up the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank in 2010. It formally opened in 2012.
Now, the Tissue Bank allows scientists to study breast tissue samples, breast cells and blood from patients to understand how breast cancer acts, grows and spreads. It is also important to compare breast cancer cells and tissues to healthy cells and tissues from the breast. This is why the Tissue Bank also collects samples from people without breast cancer.
By consistently collecting and storing breast cancer samples, we can give scientists access to the tissue they need, making research faster and more reliable and bringing greater benefits to people affected by breast cancer.
We have four dedicated Tissue Bank Centres, licensed by the Human Tissue Authority, who routinely collect, process and store samples from people with breast cancer and those without the disease. Our Tissue Bank Centres are based in London, Aberdeen, Norwich and Sheffield.
Scientists from across the globe can apply to access samples from the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank for their research. Each sample is linked to anonymised data specifying tumour type and grade, any treatment the patient received, and in some cases, the course of the disease.
All applications are assessed by our Tissue Access Committee. It helps to ensure that every tissue sample contributes to research which will advance our knowledge of the disease.
Our Tissue Access Committee reviews each application for samples to ensure that the samples are used for good-quality research. For each application Breast Cancer Now and the Tissue Access Committee will ask the following questions:
The Chair of the Access Committee is Dr Julia Gee, Cardiff University.
The Tissue Bank Advisory Council advises on the scientific strategy of the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank and its implementation. The council comprises of patients, leading scientists, researchers, and bioinformaticians from the breast cancer and biobanking fields worldwide.
The Chair of the Tissue Bank Advisory Council is Professor Richard Clarkson, Cardiff University.
Since it was established over ten years ago, the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank has collected over 52,000 samples from over 12,000 patients. These samples are now available to researchers. Over 10,000 of these samples have already been allocated to research projects. And we’re already seeing the impact.
Donating tissue and blood to the Tissue Bank is voluntary. If you are having surgery in one of our Tissue Bank Centres (in London, Aberdeen, Norwich or Sheffield), a nurse or patient volunteer may ask if you are willing to donate any tissue. They will be able to answer any questions you may have about the process.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who gives their permission for us to keep a small amount of their tissue, which is not needed to help plan their treatment and care.
Giving consent to donating your tissue (or withholding it) will not affect your care or treatment in any way, and your details will remain strictly confidential.
Unfortunately, we cannot accept donations of tissue to the Tissue Bank if you are not being treated at a Tissue Bank Centre. But if you are interested in participating in research, please speak to your nurse or doctor as there may be other studies that you are able to participate in.
The Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank is generously supported by funding from Asda Tickled Pink and the Garfield Weston Foundation. We would also like to acknowledge the past support of Walk the Walk, a founding partner of the Tissue Bank alongside Asda Tickled Pink.
But we still need further support and donations to keep investing in projects like the Tissue Bank – please donate now.