Research

The Neag Cancer Center aims to apply for an NCI designation at an appropriate time. The single largest limitation in reaching that goal is the small pool of NCI (and in general, NIH) supported grants here. That having been said, we have three research programs of varying strengths, a Center for Molecular Oncology, a cancer-dedicated Clinical Trials Office and a Tumor Biorepository, all of which support clinical research. These are described in some detail below:

Biorepository

UConn Health Center Research Tissue Registry/Repository (Biorepository) received IRB approval in 2008 with Dr. Melinda Sanders as The Principal Investigator. We are a core facility supported by Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. Our role is to collect tumor, benign and adjacent normal tissue along with blood from consented patients in a centralized facility. A pathologist determines if there is any leftover tissue at the time of surgery. The patient’s diagnosis and treatment are of utmost importance. Only tissue that would be discarded is considered. These samples are de-identified and made available with valuable data annotation such as pathology findings, laboratory results, previous treatment and family history. Additional data can also be obtained from the tumor registry of Connecticut. We employ the “honest broker” system. The honest broker is the link that maintains the patient identifier. All data released to researchers is de-identified.

Samples are collected in various formats such as flash frozen in liquid nitrogen, OCT and formalin. We are also equipped to collect fresh tissue in various media as well as cryopreservation of the fresh tissue as well as collection in RNA later. We work with various researchers to collect samples to their unique specifications. The Biorepository follows “Best Practices for Repositories: Collection, Storage, Retrieval, and Distribution for Biological Material” published by the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories. This ensures that we employ the most effective protocols and quality assurance monitoring systems to provide the highest quality specimens. Presently, we have enrolled over 2,000 patients and have approximately 18,000 individual samples banked.

We collaborate with several researchers at UConn in various facets of their work. We are capable of storing as well as processing the tissues. For example, we fix, embed and produce paraffin slides for immunohistochemistry or for DNA isolation. We have the capability to isolate DNA and RNA from various sources. We isolate peripheral blood mononuclear cells from blood samples using the most efficient technique to provide maximum viability. The Biorepository will be supporting the Hematopoietic Transplant Program, becoming a College of American Pathologists accredited laboratory. Outside partnerships include Jackson Labs, Pfizer, and Frequency Therapeutics, as well as universities such as Eastern Connecticut State University and Southwestern State University.

Our goals for the future consist of expanding our visibility within the University of Connecticut to reach more internalrResearchers and achieve CAP accreditation. This will enhance our scope of capability and continue to be a valuable asset to UConn Health.