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Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) — Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB) Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB)
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Patient Corner

Precision Medicine

What is precision medicine?

In 2015, President Obama announced the Precision Medicine Initiative aimed at moving medicine from the traditional "one size fits all" approach to one where an individual's variability including genes, environment, and lifestyle are considered.

How is BBRB accelerating scientific breakthroughs and precision medicine?

BBRB supports the development and advancement of research and precision medicine through five core focus areas:

  1. Educational materials, forums and resources for communication around biospecimen related issues
  2. Providing a resource for direct support of NCI and NIH programs and service to the research community
  3. Support and development of scientific research to bolster the evidence base for biospecimen collection, handling and processing practices
  4. Leading the development and continuous improvement of policies and processes for collection and management of biospecimen resources
  5. Partnering nationally and internationally to harmonize biospecimen and biobanking standards
mammary gland IF, pancreatic cancer mitochondria, and breast cancer cells

Biospecimens have lead to the development of less toxic and more targeted cancer therapies.

Human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 (EGRF-2) normally controls aspects of cell growth and division. Biospecimens taken from tumors stored in the NCI Cooperative Breast Cancer Tissue Resource showed that EGFR-2 was amplified in 20 to 30 percent of breast cancer cases. This discovery lead researchers to develop Trastuzumab (Herceptin®), an antibody that blocks this receptor.

Gleevec® was originally developed for the treatment of a form of leukemia by targeting the BCR-ABL protein. After analyzing biospecimens collected from different tumor types, scientists discovered that a mutant form of a related protein was responsible for the progression of a rare but deadly type of cancer, gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Subsequent clinical trials showed that Gleevec was effective against GIST, and it was approved for that use by the Food and Drug Administration.