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Rapid Autopsy Tissue Donation

Our program was recently highlighted in a short film by the UPMC physician Journal; Watch it here.

Hope for OTHERS (Our Tissue Helping Expand Research Studies)

A tissue donation program in metastatic breast cancer

Much of our research focuses on advanced breast cancer as noted in our website pages on endocrine resistance and breast cancer metastasis. To understand and characterize the progression of early disease to advanced breast cancer, access to well annotated biospecimens is necessary. We have extensively used patient tumor and blood specimens from the Breast Disease Research Repository housed at the Pitt Biospecimen Core (PBC) and in collaboration with the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Tissue and Research Pathology Services (TARPS). Access to these samples has allowed us to uncover potential drivers of metastatic organ tropism, drivers of endocrine resistance and novel disease driving gene fusions among other advances.

The breast cancer program at Pitt/UPMC/Magee Womens Hospital has established a patient-focused tissue donation program at the time of death, a “Rapid Autopsy” Program.  We have a team of breast cancer biologists, medical oncologists, pathologists, bioinformaticians, radiologists and care providers who work synergistically on this challenging task. Importantly, our efforts are supported by a group of local and national breast cancer advocates who have appropriately named the program ‘Hope for OTHERS’ (Our Tissue Helping Expand Research Studies). Our studies to understand patient attitudes to donation of research specimens will hopefully stimulate discussion and support the development of more programs to acquire post-mortem specimens.  We are currently preparing for the first larger analysis of the tissues, with the goal to understand evolution of disease and ultimately to identify better treatments and methods to prevent and treat metastatic breast cancer.

For Patients with breast cancer

Did you know that if you are a registered organ donor (I.e. on your driver’s license) you can’t donate tissue any longer due to the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer?

Consent to donate metastatic organs to research at the time of death can be given years in advance, just like organ donation through a driver’s license.  The patient can withdraw at any time, and the family will give final approval for tissue donation upon the patient’s death. Researchers will rapidly access and preserve these precious metastatic breast cancer specimens in a way consistent with an open-casket burial.  The legacy gift of research tissue serves as a lasting contribution to the fight against breast cancer. Please consider joining our ‘Hope for OTHERS’ study.

If you or someone you know might be interested in donating excess tissue collected during their clinical care or at their death, please contact our clinical coordinator:

Lori Miller

We are grateful for funding from Magee Womens Research Institute and Foundation, and Susan G Komen for the RA program.