Today's Patients Advance Future Knowledge

Kathy A. Mangold, Director of the NorthShore Biospecimen Repository

In 16 specially outfitted large freezers at NorthShore Evanston Hospital lies the promise of providing a better future for patients and their families.

NorthShore has been collecting and storing tissue and blood specimens from consenting patients for use in future research for nearly 20 years. The NorthShore Biospecimen Repository (NSBR) has well over 100,000 specimens of breast, lung, ovarian, pancreas, prostate and head/neck cancers. There are also biomarker samples for genetics, neurology, endocrinology and microbiology. 

By collecting and studying biomarkers, researchers can develop new therapies and better manage and cure illness, as well as develop preventive strategies for at-risk patients. The specimen samples are collected from patients who give their consent and only when they are linked to a specific research effort. The samples and any data on the course of the disease or response to treatment are labeled with a code number to protect patient privacy.

“The thoracic database has about 4,000 samples from lung cancer patients alone,” said Thomas A. Hensing, MD, co-director of the NorthShore Thoracic Oncology Program.

“Philanthropy has helped to create the infrastructure of many of NorthShore’s biorepositories in different areas of medicine,” he said. “Philanthropy is the engine to make this happen. We have the credibility and are in the running game. We wouldn’t be where we are today without generous charitable support for these programs.”

When a patient comes to NorthShore, the first course of action is treatment. “At an appropriate time, we may ask a patient if they would be interested in hearing about our biorepository and explaining consent and how we protect their privacy,” said Dr. Hensing. “It’s a systematic process. Most patients are very willing to participate in basically donating their tissue and blood samples that otherwise would be discarded. They know that this will probably not help their situation, but that it will help future patients.”

NorthShore is in a good position to build on its Biospecimen Repository because of its long-standing Electronic Medical Record system and its collection and successful work in molecular medicine, said Kathy A. Mangold, PhD, Director of the NSBR. “A key component of the NSBR is in the information management database we use to track specimens and other de-identified patient data,” she said.

An integral part of having advanced research capabilities is strong collaboration with other medical centers around the country, said Dr. Hensing. NorthShore is currently working with West Virginia University, which had identified a biomarker and needed to validate their finding with a completely different sample set.

“NorthShore was able to provide them with samples to help validate their findings,” said Dr. Hensing. “No one institution can bring everything to the table, which is why collaboration is so important. Having this kind of standing in cancer medicine gives us cache and makes us more competitive. This also helps us link our patients to the best therapeutic treatment available and plant NorthShore’s flag as a major research presence."

We are committed to finding advancements in treatments and therapies with the potential to cure cancer and save lives. To learn more about how you can support the NorthShore Biospecimen Repository and the research associated with it, please contact Lisa Rietmann, Director of Philanthropy, at lrietmann@northshore.org or call 224.364.7200.

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