Through my own experiences as a trainee academic pathologist, I have become aware of the rich tissue resources stored within NHS diagnostic archives and the importance of these to modern medical research. Unfortunately, I have also experienced frustrating difficulties in accessing such samples for my own research and wanted to understand how this situation could be improved upon, as its absolutely vital that tissue release proceeds in an efficient and controlled manner. Therefore, together with colleagues in CM-Path’s Clinical Trials workstream, I developed a survey with the aim of identifying current tissue release practices across the UK and barriers to this process. With the majority of the UK’s teaching hospitals replying, our survey highlighted a lack of consistency in human tissue release practices. Whilst departments appear to be committed to fulfilling tissue requests, multiple impeding barriers were identified including lack of resources and lack of clear guidance as to what constitutes best practice.

We are delighted to publish this paper in the Journal of Clinical Pathology1 but feel that it is essential for its key messages to spread beyond the pathology community and to reach the clinicians who are running trials (in both academia and industry), the charities who are funding them and the patients who are so admirably participating in them. We feel the next step is to use the information that we have generated from this survey to devise national best practice guidelines for the release of human tissue from diagnostic and research archives, ideally through collaboration with CM-Path’s other workstreams, the Clinical Trials Pathology Advisory Group (CT-PAG) and other key stakeholders. In particular, we believe that specific funding for pathologists must be provided to ensure that their crucial support to trials can continue in the face of ever-increasing clinical workloads. This challenging situation has been highlighted in a recent BBC news article2, based on the findings of the Royal College of Pathologists (RCPath) workforce survey report.

Author: Philip Macklin, Speciality Trainee in Histopathology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and CM-Path Workstream 4 Trainee Member

James Peach, Precision Medicine Lead at the Medicines Discovery Catapult commented on the research “The experience shared with the Medicines Discovery Catapult by UK medical research companies is remarkably similar: 80% of them report issues with accessing samples for research. As a result, 75% import samples from abroad4. In this context, it is critical that the access process is clear, predictable and efficient for biobanks and researchers alike if we are to maximise research use of these precious samples and ensure that the UK’s systems for sample donation, preparation, storage and use are sustainable.”

» Read the publication1

» Read the BBC news report2 (External Webpage)

» Read the RCPath report on workforce planning3 (External Webpage)

» Read more about the Medicine Discover Catapult4 (External Webpage)

Medicine Discovery Catapult is a national facility connecting the UK life sciences community to accelerate innovative drug discovery. We provide unique scientific capabilities and act as a gateway to resources and expertise, supporting UK small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to drive the development and widespread use of new approaches for the discovery of new medicines. By validating new ways of discovering medicines and driving key talent and expertise across the sector, we will support the UK life sciences industry, SMEs and innovators to deliver growth for the UK economy and maintain the UK’s heritage position as a global leader.

» Find out more information about the Medicine Discovery Catapult here (External Webpage)