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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

General Information
Research
Hematology Cell Bank of BC

The Hematology Cell Bank of BC is a bank that stores samples of blood and cancer cells. It is an initiative of the Leukemia/BMT Program of BC. The specimens are stored in the Cell Bank for scientists to use for blood diseases and cancer research purposes only.

To learn more, click on any of the questions below to skip to the answer.

  1. What is the Hematology Cell Bank of BC?
  2. Why is research into blood diseases and cancers necessary?
  3. What is Translational Research?
  4. What kind of human specimens are collected?
  5. How are the specimens collected?
  6. Can I decide what research my specimens will be used for?
  7. Will I know the results of the research using my specimens?
  8. Why do I need to provide information from my health records?
  9. How will my privacy be protected?
  10. How can I participate in donating specimens to the Cell Bank?
  11. What if I change my mind and want to withdraw consent?

1. What is the Hematology Cell Bank of BC?

The Hematology Cell Bank of BC is a bank that stores samples of blood and cancer cells. After obtaining written informed consent, specimens are collected when a routine medical procedure is being performed. We call the bank a ‘Cell Bank’ because it is the cells within the blood and bone marrow that are stored and used by scientists for research purposes. Specimens donated to the bank are not used as blood transfusions or for transplant purposes. These donated specimens are used solely for research purposes.

Scientists who wish to use specimens stored in the Cell Bank must meet the requirements of the BC Cancer Agency Research Ethics Board (an independent ethics board that reviews all scientific research projects that use human specimens). The researcher must also demonstrate to a scientific review committee that their work has scientific merit.

Participation in the Cell Bank is completely voluntary.

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2. Why is research into blood diseases and cancers necessary?

Everyday the body normally produces billions of new white blood cells, red blood cells and other cells. All of these are produced from a small number of very specialized cells called blood stem cells (also called hematopoietic stem cells). Occasionally, something goes wrong with the growth and behavior of the blood cells and a blood disease or cancer develops. Currently, not much is known about how normal blood cells or blood stem cells become diseased or turn into cancers so this is an important area of research. In addition, scientists are also trying to develop safer and more effective treatments for blood diseases, as well as, improved tests and ways of preventing blood cancers and other diseases.

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3. What is Translational Research?

You may hear your physician or researchers in the media talk about 'translational research' or sometimes this may be referred as ‘bench to bedside’ research. What does this mean? Translational research is the promotion of knowledge and scientific development by improving communication between the clinic and the laboratory. To improve human health, scientific discoveries must be translated into practical applications. Such discoveries typically begin at the ‘bench’ with basic research in the laboratory and then progresses to the clinical level, or the patient’s ‘bedside’ with new treatments. Scientists provide clinicians with new tools to help treat patients and clinicians provide scientist’s access to specimens and clinical data to help further research.

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4. What kind of human specimens are collected for the Hematology Cell Bank?

The specimens collected may include:

  • Blood samples
  • Bone marrow material (from bone marrow biopsies or harvested bone marrow)
  • Peripheral blood stem cells
  • Leukapheresis material.  (Leukapheresis is a procedure for reducing the white blood count in persons with leukemia with a very elevated white blood cell count). 

Scientists also use specimens donated from healthy individuals to help them understand how healthy blood cells compare to diseased blood cells. Specimens may be donated by your family member or an unrelated donor at the time they are donating for your transplant.  With their consent a specimen will be collected and stored at the Hematology Cell Bank for scientific research. The specimens collected may include:

  • Blood samples
  • Peripheral blood stem cells
  • Harvested stem cells from bone marrow

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5. How are the specimens collected?

With your consent specimens of blood and bone marrow material will be collected at the time you are scheduled for blood collection, a bone marrow biopsy or bone marrow harvest. You may be asked to have one additional blood sample collected, but you will not be asked to have additional bone marrow biopsies or stem cell collection procedures for research purposes. Donating these specimens is entirely voluntary. If you are donating peripheral blood stem cells for transplant or having leukapheresis to reduce a high white blood cell count, specimens will be collected at that time.

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6. Can I decide what research my specimens will be used for?

You will not be able to decide the specific research your specimens will be used for, just as when you donate blood to a blood bank, you cannot decide which patient will receive that blood. The use of your specimens will be reviewed by a panel of research scientists and clinicians. They will review the scientist’s research proposal to determine the use of the specimens. All research proposals are approved by the BC Cancer Agency Research Ethics Board (an independent ethics board that reviews all scientific research projects that use human specimens).

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7. Will I know the results of the research using my specimens?

Research using human specimens can take a long time. The results of the research may not be determined for many years. You will not be informed of the results of that research, but may hear of important discoveries through the media or from your physician. Results of research that is published can be viewed here.

Human specimen research aims to provide better treatments for patients – it may lead to research involving the trial of new medications to treat your disease. The scientists using these specimens work closely with the physicians of the Leukemia/BMT Program of BC to bring new and more promising treatments to patients. Information about the type of research being done using donated specimens will be posted on this web site as well.

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8. Why do I need to provide information from my health records?

There may be times when a scientist may need to know more about you. This information helps the scientist learn more about the disease and how it has affected you. The information a scientist may need may include:

  • The date of your diagnosis
  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • Your general health history
  • The treatment you have received
  • Your family health history

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9. How will my privacy be protected?

Every effort will be made to protect your privacy. Each specimen donated by you will be given a coded number. All information that identifies you will be removed. All scientists who require further health information about you sign a confidentiality agreement. No information identifying you will be released in publications describing the research work. All information that identifies you will be kept behind locked doors or in secure computer files.

Research records and medical records identifying you may be inspected in the presence of representatives of Health Canada and the BCCA Research Ethics Board for the purpose of monitoring the research.

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10. How can I participate in donating specimens to the Cell Bank?

Your participation is entirely voluntary. At the time of your admission to hospital or when you visit the medical clinic for an appointment with your physician you will have an opportunity to read the consent form and decide if you would like to participate in this research. A clinical research nurse will review the consent and answer any questions you may have.

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11. What if I change my mind and want to withdraw consent?

Your decision not to participate in this research will not affect the treatment you receive as a patient of the Leukemia Bone Marrow Transplant Program. You may withdraw at any time. If you withdraw, no further specimens will be collected from you. You can withdraw by notifying the Principal Investigator or the coordinator for the research project. The contact information is provided in the consent form.

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