Academic Health Center BioRepository established to advance clinical research

May 16, 2012 | News, UToday
By Staff

Patients in northwest Ohio now can contribute to the advancement of medical research.

ProMedica and The University of Toledo last week opened the Academic Health Center BioRepository to help researchers find new and improved treatments for cancer and other medical conditions, including autism, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

UT and ProMedica leaders of the new BioRepository are, from left, Dr. Yasmin Isler, research specialist; Dr. James Willey, professor and director of UT's Cancer Research Center; Dr. Debra Gmerek, UT associate dean for research and director of the center for clinical research; Dr. Michael McPhee, ProMedica surgical oncologist; Randy Oostra, ProMedica president and CEO; and Dr. Jeffrey Gold, UT chancellor and executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs, and dean of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

Human blood and tissue samples will be donated by area patients to the BioRepository for future scientific research. The BioRepository is located in the Department of Pathology at ProMedica Toledo Hospital. Governmental, health-care and community leaders joined physicians, researchers and staff from both organizations for a special ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the milestone May 9.

“This is one of the most exciting achievements so far for the Academic Health Center, and we are very fortunate to have such an advanced program in our area,” said Randy Oostra, president and chief executive officer of ProMedica. “We are committed to the expansion of medical research and look forward to witnessing some amazing scientific advancements and discoveries.”

A BioRepository is a bank where blood and tissue samples, called biospecimens, are stored. With patient approval, biospecimens will be collected from leftover tissue obtained during medical procedures. The stored biospecimens will help researchers learn more about specific diseases, identify how they progress, and develop new treatment therapies. Initially, patients undergoing certain procedures at ProMedica Toledo Hospital will have the opportunity to participate in the initiative with the expected expansion to the UT Medical Center and other facilities.

“So many of the medicines and treatments that comprise modern medicine have been developed by researchers with access to a broad spectrum of tissue samples representative of the public generally,” said Dr. Jeffrey P. Gold, UT chancellor and executive vice president for biosciences and health affairs, and dean of UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

“This BioRepository is an outstanding example of the benefit to the community of the collaboration between UT and ProMedica,” Gold said. “By combining the research abilities and patient volumes of our two organizations, we may very well develop medical treatments that will be the standard of care around the world in years to come.”

“I applaud the Academic Health Center for recognizing the tremendous benefits of establishing a local BioRepository. It will lead to additional treatment options for area patients and enable clinicians to offer personalized cancer care,” said Dr. Michael McPhee, ProMedica surgical oncologist. “Biomolecular technology is a growing field, and this program allows area investigators the necessary tumor samples in order to carry out their research.”

Dr. James Willey, professor and director of UT’s Cancer Research Center, said that while cancer research will benefit, so will research into the treatment of countless conditions and diseases.

“A key advancement in the way we treat patients is to personalize medicine where, by basing a patient’s treatment on an analysis of his or her individual genetic characteristics, we can devise and implement the most suitable individual health-care plan, including prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” Willey said.

“Cancer is a great example, but you can take any of a broad array of diseases and conditions where the material collected at the BioRepository will be critical in identifying biomarkers. Biomarkers are substances and molecules we can use as clues to differentiate an individual’s needed cancer treatments from cancer treatments more generally,” he said.

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