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Breast cancer tissue bank strives to broaden diversity of samples to help Latinas, blacks and Asians

LatinaLista — Breast cancer may not discriminate with whom it targets but not all breast cancer is the same inwho gets it. The medical community recognizes that breast cancer, as all cancers, behave differently in people of different ethnicities. That wasn’t always the case.

Donors’ blood samples for tissue collection.

It used to be considered a one-size-disease-fits-all until doctors noticed, for example, that African-American women were more likely to develop triple-negative breast cancer, a more aggressive cancer which doesn’t respond to any of the targeted therapies developed by researchers. Latinas and Asians have their own types of responses to the disease, as well as, women who work night shifts versus day shifts.

Yet, because of access and/or language barriers to these ethnic communities of women, breast cancer researchers never fully included ethnic women’s normal tissue samples in their studies — an essential part of any search for a true cure. To find a cure, normal tissue must be compared to diseased tissue to note the difference in composition, disease spread, etc.

Last year, the Susan G. Koman for the Cure partnered with Indiana University Simon Cancer Center to create The Komen Tissue Bank (KTB) to address this very issue.

The Komen Tissue Bank is the only repository in the world for normal breast tissue and matched serum, plasma and DNA. By studying normal tissue, we accelerate research for the causes and prevention of breast cancer. To more deeply understand the evolution of the disease, it is necessary to compare abnormal, cancerous tissue against normal, healthy tissue.

The process to collect tissue involves a needle and is collected using a vacuum-assist device which uses a needle and air, and is very quiet. This device will remove all three tissue cores in quick succession. The sample is taken from the upper, outer quadrant of the breast near the armpit.

The KTB is on a mission to improve its samples by hosting tissue collection events in different cities around the country specifically targeting various ethnic groups from Vietnamese to Latinas and Native Americans.

In getting all the different samples, the KTB can then help researchers by supplying them with much needed comparison tissues to better understand how breast cancer is different not only for each woman but for each ethnicity and find a cure that works for all women.

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