Researching the cures


Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund Tissue Bank – FAQs

What is a tissue bank? 
Why do we need a national Tissue Bank for pancreatic cancer research? 
Who is involved? 
How will the PCRF Tissue Bank help research?
Who can donate to the Tissue Bank?
How many samples will the Tissue Bank hold?
How much has the Tissue Bank cost?
Which researchers can use the Tissue Bank?


What is a tissue bank?

A tissue bank (also known as a biobank) is a specialised facility where samples of human tissue, blood, saliva and urine are catalogued, preserved and stored for use by researchers. Researchers can apply for samples on which to conduct relevant research which will help to answer many questions about pancreatic cancer more quickly and enable new treatments to reach patients faster.


Why do we need a national Tissue Bank for pancreatic cancer research?

We’re committed to doing everything we can to help find cures for pancreatic cancer. 

Researchers told us that the lack of access to high quality tissue samples from pancreatic cancer patients was holding back research.  When we were told that a national Tissue Bank would help researchers make progress more quickly, we decided that this would be a good use of supporter donations.

Access to pancreatic tumour tissue is mainly when a patient is having surgery to remove the tumour. But only around 15% of the patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year are diagnosed early enough for surgery to remove the tumour.  So every sample is a very precious resource for research.


Who is involved?

Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund has funded the national Tissue Bank. The Tissue Bank facility itself is based at Barts Cancer Institute (BCI), Queen Mary University of London, which will also act as the co-ordinating centre.  We chose BCI because it has a great deal of expertise in operating and managing tissue banking facilities for breast cancer, testicular cancer and blood cancers. 

There are currently six key NHS partners, which are renowned for their expertise in treating pancreatic diseases, and which will act as tissue collection centres. These are:

  • Barts Health NHS Trust (London)
  • The Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust 
  • University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust 
  • Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust 
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust
  • ABM University Health Board, Swansea

We anticipate that more organisations will join the Tissue Bank collaboration in due course.

All the Key NHS centres are licensed by the Human Tissue Authority and the Tissue Bank has ethical approval from National Research Ethics Service.


How will the PCRF Tissue Bank help research?

A nationally-co-ordinated Tissue Bank will help research in several very important ways.

Firstly, high quality tissue samples enable high quality research. Each key partner will handle tissue in exactly the same way, to strict protocols and quality controls. This means that research results from Tissue Bank samples will be highly reliable and more meaningful.  

Secondly, pancreatic cancer is a highly complex disease and research has shown that there are many different genes, proteins and cellular processes that are associated with its growth and spread. Researchers around the world are working hard to understand, map and find ways to prevent the cancer from taking hold and spreading, and to develop new ways to kill the cancer cells without harming healthy tissue.

As each Tissue Bank sample will be catalogued with information about the tumour type, grade and the anonymous donor’s clinical history, it means that researchers can access samples of tissue which best match their research needs.  

Thirdly, PCRF’s Tissue Bank has a built-in Research and Development arm which will continually progress innovative research methods and techniques to ensure that samples yield the maximum amount of relevant information possible.

Fourthly, the results of every research project which uses samples from the Tissue Bank will be fed back into a bespoke database and shared with pancreatic cancer researchers around the world to inform and underpin their own research. 


Who can donate to the Tissue Bank?

If you are a patient undergoing pancreatic cancer surgery at one of the key NHS partner hospitals, you may be asked if you will consent to donating a small amount of the removed tissue for research, after any diagnostic procedures have been completed. In addition, if you are a non-surgical patient, you may also be asked to if you will consider donating a blood, saliva and urine sample. Donation is entirely voluntary.

Patients’ close relatives/spouse/partner may also be approached, with permission, to donate urine, blood and saliva. This is because information from samples they provide may also give researchers clues to understanding genetic and environmental factors in pancreatic disease, when comparing these to samples from healthy people. 

We hope that anyone who donates to the Tissue Bank will be proud to know that they are directly helping researchers to develop new tests, understand the disease process and develop new, effective treatments for pancreatic cancer, which are desperately needed. 


How many samples will the Tissue Bank hold?

Our key NHS partners hope to add samples of pancreas tissue, blood, urine and saliva from around 1,000 new patients each year. 


How much has the Tissue Bank cost?

We have committed £2.4 million to the setting up and running of the Tissue Bank. This should cover its first 5 years of operation. 

The funding covers the costs of equipment, such as specialist tissue banking freezers, a dedicated Tissue Bank co-ordinator, and staff to deal with the bespoke database that will contain the research results that arise from Tissue Bank samples. 


Which researchers can use the Tissue Bank?

While reserves are being built up, the tissue will be made available to researchers at the six key partners, plus researchers involved in past and current research projects funded by PCRF. We expect that from year 3 onwards, we will be able to widen access to all UK researchers involved in pancreatic cancer research – and then to international researchers.