AIM at Melanoma Opens the Fourth Branch of Fresh Frozen Primary Tissue Bank at Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University



January 23, 2020 (San Rafael, California)… AIM at Melanoma and AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation announce the opening of the fourth branch of the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium (IMTBC) at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University in Chicago. The Chicago site is one of six global locations of the consortium. These six institutions will collect a critical mass of fresh frozen primary tumor tissue—500 samples—and corresponding patient data, which will be available to their researchers and to researchers around the world who apply to use it.

Already planned research projects include comparing gene signatures of a patient’s primary tumor vs. metastatic tumors to determine the molecular factors involved in progression of the tumor in the patient, with the goal of knowing which patients’ melanomas will spread and become deadly and which will not; and learning how the metabolism in the original tumor impacts the aggressiveness of the tumor and its response to immunotherapy, with the goal of knowing which melanomas will respond to immunotherapy and why, so we can develop treatments that work for all patients.

A fresh-frozen primary tissue bank—fully annotated and collaborative—has never been achieved before in melanoma, and it has taken more than a decade of dedicated work to accomplish. The IMTBC is a global first because of the following combination of factors:

• It’s a consortium—the six institutions are sharing data and tissue samples with each other
• It’s collaborative—researchers around the world can apply to obtain tissue samples and data for research
• The tissue will be fresh frozen—RNA is preserved, unlike in the standard formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded process
• The tumors are primary—not metastasized
• There will be a critical mass—a goal of 500 in the first two years, and continued collection thereafter
• Full annotation will accompany each tissue—patient data, including full medical history (depersonalized), will be available for study along with the tissue
• Samples will accompany each tissue—blood and urine samples will be collected for each patient

“We are thrilled to partner with AIM on this first-of-its-kind fresh-frozen primary tissue bank,” says Jeffrey Wayne, MD, Associate Director of Clinical Operations at the Lurie Cancer Center and Chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology at Northwestern Medicine. “The research potential for fresh frozen primary melanoma tumors is enormous. My colleagues in dermatology research and oncology research join me in my eagerness to begin collecting tissue.”

Northwestern is one of six branches of the IMTBC—four in the United States and two in Australia. The University of Pittsburgh, Hillman Cancer Center site opened in April of last year; the California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco site opened in September; and the Oregon Health & Sciences University, Portland site opened in October. The remaining locations in Australia have approved their contracts to become fully functioning branches of the IMTBC and are awaiting only final details before they too will open and accelerate the collection of tissue. All of the institutions were selected because of their renowned melanoma research programs, and Northwestern was selected in particular because of AIM’s partnership with Chicago-based SKIN OF STEEL, a non-profit 501(c)(3) founded by Susan Steel, who passed away in 2016 after an 11-year sword fight with melanoma.

“When I met Susan in 2010 and told her about the plans for a fresh frozen primary tissue bank and that three U.S. researchers and institutions had joined the planning team, Susan was adamant that Northwestern be a part of the bank,” says Val Guild, Founder and President of AIM at Melanoma. “So she introduced me to Jeff Wayne, and he’s been a committed partner since then. Susan has passed away, but she would be so proud today.”

IMTBC is a project of AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) created by AIM at Melanoma and funded by donations to AIM as well as to Chicago-based SKIN OF STEEL. Interested donors and researchers are welcome to query Alicia Rowell.

About AIM at Melanoma and the AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation: Founded in 2004, AIM at Melanoma is a global foundation dedicated to finding more effective treatments and, ultimately, the cure for melanoma while improving the lives of those it affects. AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation is the research arm of AIM at Melanoma and focuses solely on global, collaborative melanoma research projects. AIM’s global research initiatives include The International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium, The Melanoma International Collaboration for Adaptive Trials, and the International Melanoma Working Group. AIM at Melanoma provides education, connection to resources and opportunities for meaningful engagement to help patients and caregivers/families better face the challenges of melanoma.

About the Lurie Cancer Center: The Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, is committed to attacking cancer from all angles. Across Northwestern Medicine, our physicians and scientists are translating innovative research into life-changing treatments today – and developing tomorrow’s breakthroughs.