Modern cancer research. Our understanding of how cells become cancerous and invade other organs has improved significantly in recent decades. Researchers now have unprecedented access to the genomic, epigenomic and proteomic landscape of cancer cells, allowing identification of cancer characteristics which can be used to improve cancer therapy in clinical practice.
Personalised cancer medicine. A main area of cancer pathology research is in the discovery of novel cancer biomarkers which can be used by cancer specialists to prognosticate and fine-tune cancer therapy for each individual. This is called personalised medicine; the cornerstone of modern cancer medicine.
When a cancer patient undergoes surgery, the tissue removed is sent for pathology testing. This is important to confirm the cancer diagnosis, and to identify cancer characteristics which can help oncologists and other cancer specialists plan follow-up treatment.
Formalin fixed paraffin embedded tissue (FFPE) and the role of pathologists. In order to make the tissue suitable for examination, it undergoes a process called formalin fixation and paraffin embedment (FFPE). This process embalms the tissue so ultra-thin tissue slices can be cut, stained and applied on glass slides for viewing under a light microscope. Microscopic examination is performed by pathologists, expert doctors who are trained to identify thousands of different types of cancers. Typically, only a small portion of the tissue is used up for diagnosis, the rest is filed away and kept in the archives of pathology departments and healthcare facilities.
FFPE tissue is a vast and relatively untapped resource in cancer research. Unlike animal models and cancer cell lines, FFPE tissue represents the true cancer cells embedded within its native tissue environment. Modern molecular techniques can interrogate FFPE tissue to reveal the inner workings of cancer and provide important insights into the development of novel and more effective cancer therapy.
Working towards building a richly annotated FFPE Biobank. FFPE tissue are turned into tissue microarrays, a format which allows mass rapid screening for novel cancer biomarkers. Because the tissues are accompanied by a wealth of clinical and pathology information, researchers are able to examine if a given biormarker is associated with particular types of patients and whether it influences cancer outcomes for these patients. FFPE cancer tissue micro-arrays are currently the gold standard for tissue cancer biomarker validation. Our group's expertise and work is focused on the development of FFPE tissue microarray resources for cancer translational research work.
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