Komen Tissue Bank Looking for Answers in Kenya

Guest blog from Kathi Ridley-Merriweather, Program Assistant, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank at IU Simon Cancer Center

Thanks to a new $500,000 grant from Komen, the Susan G. Komen for the Cure® Tissue Bank at the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center is expanding its incredible work to Africa, looking for answers to an aggressive cancer that disproportionately strikes women of African descent.

The Komen Tissue Bank (KTB) is the world’s only biobank, collecting healthy, normal breast tissue which is then shared with researchers across the globe. Komen’s new half-million dollar grant sets the stage for the Tissue Bank to conduct a first-of-its-kind tissue collection in Kenya, gathering normal breast tissue (as well as matched serum, plasma and DNA) from 200 Kenyan donors. This tissue also will be available to researchers globally.

This is a very exciting step in our mission to find answers to the toughest questions that remain in breast cancer treatment and especially for triple negative breast cancer – an aggressive form of breast cancer that disproportionately affects women of African descent. There are no targeted treatments for triple negative breast cancer today, meaning women are much more likely to die of this form of the disease.

The Tissue Bank already includes donated tissue from American women of African descent. Gathering tissue samples directly from indigenous African women could be the critical next step in unlocking knowledge about this form of the disease and developing treatment strategies.

To collect these 200 samples, Komen Tissue Bank staff will travel twice to Kenya. The first trip, in early 2013, will allow bank staff to review potential sites for the collection and build relationships with key Kenyan medical leaders, laying the groundwork for the tissue collection to potentially take place in the summer of 2013. Also during this first trip, a handful of donors will be invited to give breast tissue as a pilot collection.

The actual large-scale collection is projected to take place over multiple days in the summer of 2013. Surgeons, lab technicians, and other individuals will be on site to help all donors and ensure the process runs smoothly. A select group of surgeons and skilled volunteers will travel from Indianapolis to Kenya with the KTB, with most paying much or all of their own way.  A significant portion of the effort, however,  will be undertaken by Kenyans.

The Tissue Bank opened in 2007 with a $1 million Komen grant; Komen’s investment since then has grown to $7 million!

About the author

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Susan G. Komen has written 278 articles for Susan G. Komen® | Blog

Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen and launched the global breast cancer movement. Today, Komen is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure®, we have invested more than $1.9 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.