BETHESDA, MarylandA National Cancer Institute (NCI) panel has declared the creation of a Virtual Shared Specimen Resource (VSSR) to be "absolutely necessary for advancing the detection, classification, and treatment of gynecologic cancer."
The envisioned resource would improve specimen collection and allow researchers to share specimens more widely, according to the committee. It would also enhance collaborations across disciplines and institutions aimed at answering important questions about cervical, endometrial, and ovarian cancers.
"The VSSR will enable the research community to exploit emerging genomics, proteomics, and informatics technologies to identify gynecologic cancers early in the disease process and to discover new targets for their prevention and treatment," said the Gynecologic Cancers Progress Review Group. Its report was released at a meeting of the National Cancer Advisory Board (NCAB).
The NCI panel added that the VSSR would be virtual in the sense that information describing the specimens would be housed in a central database but the specimens themselves would reside with the institutions that collected them.
The VSSR will enable molecular profiling to identify the distinct signatures of specific types of gynecologic cancer cells. This information will help answer a number of important questions: How can women at high risk for these cancers be identified? How can ovarian and endometrial cancer be detected early? What strategies can be developed to prevent gynecologic cancers? How can researchers develop better treatments?
Although many specimen collections now exist, they are limited in their usefulness for many reasons, the report said. Specimens may not have been processed or stored appropriately. The banked specimens may not include the needed tissue types; adequate informed consent may not exist; or the specimens may not be sufficiently linked to clinical data.