University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)

Head and Neck Cancer SPORE

Core B: Tissue/Histology

Raja Seethala, MD, Leader
Roy Somak, MD, Co-Investigator

The Tissue and Histology Core is a required and essential component of the Head and Neck Cancer SPORE. The Core oversees the collection, processing and distribution of tissues obtained from HNSCC and thyroid nodule/thyroid cancer subjects for use by the projects and programs of the SPORE. This Core works closely with the Informatics component of Core C to link each specimen to individual subjects in our professionally curated organ-specific database.

Research specimens, including snap-frozen OCT-embedded, archival or fresh tissue blocks, cells (tumor or tumor infiltrating lymphocytes) dissociated from tissues, peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and paraffin-embedded or frozen tissue sections for immunohistochemical (IHC) analyses and tissue microarrays, are triaged for distribution to SPORE investigators as specified by research protocols. Microdissection of tissues and extraction of RNA and/or DNA for molecular assays may also be performed. The Core banks any samples that are not used immediately by SPORE investigators for future use by DRP and/or CDP awardees and/or collaborators at other institutions. Histopathologic analysis by Core pathologists confirms the quality and quantity of tumor in research specimens. IHC is used to detect cellular biomarkers, whose expression in target tissues may be correlated with response to therapy or clinical outcome. The Core tracks samples and facilitates the sharing of specimens by the research laboratories according to a priority schema that is reviewed and approved by the Executive Committee of the SPORE. Specimen processing, inventory, and distribution data and histopathologic analyses are maintained in the Core's computerized database with links to the Informatics component of Core C for storage and archiving to facilitate a web-based retrieval system. This database is designed for use by all SPORE investigators. New efforts include: 1) generation of prospective tissue microarrays by organ site and clinical cohort; 2) development and characterization of patient-derived xenografts (PDXs); 3) next-generation sequencing of thyroid nodules and thyroid cancers; and 4) development of molecular CLIA assays for use in SPORE trials.

The Specific Aims of Core B include:

Aim 1: Facilitate patient enrollment into specific projects, provide informed consent for general tissue and blood banking, and collect and manage all clinical and follow-up data to be used in a HIPPA compliant, de-linked manner for current and future SPORE-sponsored projects;

Aim 2: Procure, process, and store biological specimens (tissue, blood, serum, saliva), survey data (lifestyle questionnaire), and clinical data (treatment information) from consented patients to support SPORE projects;

Aim 3: Inventory all specimens and subject information in a browser-based secure relational database that is compatible with current technology incorporating common data elements (in collaboration with Core C);

Aim 4: Provide basic and customized (project-specific) biospecimen quality control, pathologic analysis of tissue specimens, and create tissue microarrays specific to tumor site, patient demographic variables and clinical trials. Provide expert immunohistochemical and molecular consultation for design and implementation of translational research projects and biomarker analysis to meet SPORE project objectives;

Aim 5: Develop, maintain, genotype and distribute our unique collection of well characterized UPCI head and neck cancer cell lines and HNSCC PDX models to SPORE investigators and collaborators for research; and

Aim 6: Provide support in molecular assay design and development and facilitate transition of assays to the CLIA environment if indicated. Facilitate genotyping of tumor specimens using next-generation sequencing approaches to support SPORE projects.