Nationwide mesothelioma research has dodged a bullet thanks to a federal agency decision to keep a vital mesothelioma tissue-lending program fully funded for the next two years.
The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank for Translational Research was facing closure due to a government budget cut. But the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety in June coughed up the $2.2 million in grant money the tissue bank had been expecting before the budget axe fell.
News that the funds had been restored was welcomed by “customers” of the bank – chiefly academic researchers and corporate scientists working to develop improved mesothelioma diagnosis tools, breakthrough mesothelioma treatments and a mesothelioma cure.
Vital Tool for Mesothelioma Research
The tissue bank is a one-stop shop for researchers interested acquiring essential tools needed in fleshing out and testing their ideas about how to more effectively and efficiently fight mesothelioma at the molecular level.
The bank offers researchers access to a large and growing collection of mesothelioma tissue specimens.
They can access these tissues in two ways.
First, researchers can look up data about the type of tissue specimen in which they are interested. The data awaiting exploration are richly detailed and include extensive commentary supplied by other researchers who previously worked with the specimens.
Researchers can also contact the bank manager and apply for a loan of the mesothelioma tissue specimen they think will best satisfy their investigation’s requirements. To borrow a tissue specimen, the researcher must explain what the project is all about. If the proposed project strikes the bank’s decision-makers as having merit, the loan will be granted.
Helping Mesothelioma Researchers Across the U.S.
The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank for Translational Research opened its doors in 2006. The bank came together through a collaboration of institutions led by the departments of Biomedical Informatics, Epidemiology and Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh.
The Biomedical Informatics department was especially active, owing to its mission of employing sophisticated computers, extensive databases and user networks to boost genomic research and clinical care.
The department’s contribution in part included the creation of the tissue bank’s virtual vault now brimming with data about the tissues — the actual specimens are kept at various institutions across the U.S. The virtual vault is based on a successful cancer informatics network fashioned by the department, which enjoys an enviable reputation for innovation.
Before completing construction of the mesothelioma tissue bank informatics network, the builders asked mesothelioma researchers what kind of data and specimens they wanted to be available through it. The builders felt this would allow them to optimize the appeal and usefulness of the finished product.
Other participants involved in the bank’s founding were the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine, and New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The bank is funded with dollars from an Occupational Safety and Health program overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services through its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of all the cancer research ventures that receive their funding exclusively from the federal government, this is the only one oriented around mesothelioma.