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Residual Tissue Repository (RTR) Program

The SEER Program provides a unique potential for performing biospecimen studies on a representative sample of cancer cases from a particular geographic area. SEER registries are population based, collecting data on all cancer cases in their geographic area. This differs significantly from hospital-based specimen banks. The representativeness of the specimens available for research and suitable for incorporation into tissue microarrays (TMAs) can be determined. It is also possible to analyze data on cases for which specimens are not obtainable and provide information on biases that may result due to lack of incorporation of some specimens.

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News: NCI recently issued a funding opportunity announcement for Pilot Studies in Pancreatic Cancer. The Residual Tissue Repository Program produced a Pancreatic TMA that may of interest to investigators who apply for funding.

About the Program

The SEER registries are population-based and collect data on all cancer cases in their geographic areas. . With justification, the types of information that may be available include:

  • demographic information
  • tumor characteristics
  • limited treatment data
  • outcome data – survival

Thus, the SEER registries provide a unique potential for performing biospecimen studies on a representative sample of cancer cases from a particular geographic area. Recognizing this potential, the SEER Residual Tissue Repository (RTR) program was established in 2003.

The purpose of the RTR program is to prevent, to the extent possible, loss of specimens associated with SEER patients. The RTR was initiated to preserve pathology specimens associated with cancer cases in SEER registries that would otherwise be discarded and to use these specimens to test hypotheses relevant to the population-based sample.

The RTR:

  • Enables studies on rare cancers for which no single registry has enough cases to allow statistically valid conclusions to be drawn.
  • Allows validation studies on specimens from population-based registries.
  • Allows evaluation of bias in selected groups of specimens since the SEER database provides information on all cancer cases whether or not they have specimens available.
  • Makes available the wealth of SEER data on each cancer.
  • Allows analysis of trends in incidence and the potential for correlation with treatment trends based on the long history and diversity of the SEER registries.
  • Makes possible updating of information after the tissue microarray (TMA) is formed without violating confidentiality and privacy protections.

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Participating Registries

Currently, the following three registries have functioning residual repositories (specimens housed at participating registries), as well as virtual repositories (specimens housed at pathology facilities found at all SEER registries) to identify and locate specimens being retained by pathology facilities:

The residual tissue repositories at the three registries provide coverage of significant numbers of cancer cases from diverse geographic regions (urban/rural) and race/ethnic groups.

Activities to date have included the Hawaii registry's production of tissue microarrays for colorectal and breast cancer, collaboration of all participating registries with the NCI Tissue Array Research Program (TARP) Lab to produce a pancreatic cancer tissue microarray, and consideration of other cancer sites for future tissue microarray generation. In addition, a variety of studies have used RTR specimens for non-TMA projects.

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SEER RTR Committee

The SEER RTR committee is composed of representatives from participating SEER registries and the NCI SEER Program/Surveillance Research Program. For individual projects, other collaborators may participate in committee decisions. The committee will

  • ensure the overall process involving the RTR studies coincide with program goals,
  • review proposals, progress reports, and manuscripts, and
  • make decisions regarding the use of specimens and other desired resources.

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