KTB 101 – Who are we and what are we about?

Some of you may be receiving our newsletter for the first time, and others of you may not know the basic facts about the Komen Tissue Bank. We thought it might be good to go back to the basics, so here is a KTB primer.

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank at the IU Simon Cancer Center, also known as the Komen Tissue Bank (KTB), collects healthy breast tissue for breast cancer research.  Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, in the Midwest region of the United States, it is the only  known biobank of its kind in the world.  Since 2006, the KTB has been collecting and storing breast tissue, whole blood, serum, and plasma, and making the samples available to scientists around the world to use in research which seeks a cause and a cure for breast cancer.

To date, the Komen Tissue Bank has collected tissue samples from more than 3,000 donors, mainly from women in the Midwestern United States. Over the years, it has become increasingly evident that special steps would need to be taken to ensure that these tissue samples would be collected from a diverse population of women.  Breast cancer affects people of different races and ethnicities in different ways, and the KTB has made it a priority to collect ethnically and regionally diverse samples so that studies can be made which take these differences into account. As an example, even though Caucasian women have the highest incidence of contracting breast cancer, women of African descent are more likely to get a more aggressive form of the disease called Triple Negative.  This type of cancer is more likely to be resistant to treatment, and women who contract it have a significantly higher likelihood of dying from their breast cancer.  The Komen Tissue Bank believes that it is very important to examine why.

Why do we need to collect healthy breast cancer tissue?

Cancer can be described as a “control signal” problem:  the wrong population of cells experience uncontrolled growth.  In breast cancer it seems to make sense that if it were known what the signals look like in normal settings, we would have clues as to what is going wrong when cancer develops.

For the past year we have been branching out, holding collection events in other states in an effort to diversify our sample base. In 2013 we are really taking a leap – to Kenya! To learn more about this, read the Kenya articles in this newsletter.

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