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The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank (NMVB) is a registry of mesothelioma blood and tissue samples. It provides researchers with samples from consenting patients to be used to develop diagnostic tools and treatments. The University of Pittsburgh houses the Bank.
What Is the NMVB?
The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank is a facility located at the Departments of Biomedical Informatics, Epidemiology, and Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh. It collects tissue and blood samples from mesothelioma patients and distributes them to researchers to complete studies.
The patients from whom the samples originate must give consent first and are informed of how researchers will use their blood and tissues.
The NMVB is the largest such registry for mesothelioma samples. It was begun because of the great need to find better ways to diagnose mesothelioma earlier and treat it more effectively.
Two government agencies fund it: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety. There are other mesothelioma tissue banks in the country, but none that offer samples to so many researchers. Other tissue banks are much more protective of their samples.
Services Offered to Researchers
The primary purpose of the NMVB is to collect and distribute mesothelioma blood and tissue samples to help further research.
The registry does not simply collect samples and hand them out at random, though. The samples are carefully collected from consenting patients. The Bank stores them along with annotated data that researchers can use to maintain consistency, including 132 common data elements.
This includes clinical—although not identifying—information about the patients and their outcomes. The annotation that comes with the samples makes the blood and tissue more usable by researchers.
The main service is to provide researchers with blood and tissue samples. Researchers must apply for samples, and a Research Evaluation Panel judges their study proposals.
The Panel decides if the study is meritorious and whether they should give requested samples to a particular research project. There are no limitations on how research is funded; both government and non-government studies are welcome to apply for samples. Students may not apply but may get access to samples through advising professors.
The NMVB provides the samples researchers need for studies, but also interpretation and consultation. The registry can help expert pathologists in staining samples, interpreting results, scoring, and doing statistical analysis. In addition to providing the samples, the NMVB also offers planning of small and large studies.
History and Funding of the NMVB
The NMVB began with a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) along with assistance from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in 2006. The grant was set for five years, but in 2011 that was renewed for another five years.
In 2013, researchers were disappointed to find out that, due to budgeting cuts, the CDC and NIOSH would be cutting the annual $1 million to the NMVB. This was a significant blow to mesothelioma research.
In 2014, the decision to cut the funding was reversed, and the CDC decided to continue the funding that it and NIOSH had initially agreed to provide through 2016.
Even better news came in 2016 when the CDC and NIOSH announced that the funding would again be renewed for five years, providing $5.5 million to keep the NMVB going through at least 2021.
The Importance of the NMVB
The importance of having a dedicated mesothelioma tissue repository cannot be understated. Having these samples available for researchers is crucial for advancing diagnosis and treatment. The NMVB is the only government-funded registry dedicated to mesothelioma.
Mesothelioma affects thousands of people every year, and most of these people are not diagnosed in the early stages and do not receive a good prognosis. More research is needed to make sure doctors can make life-saving diagnoses earlier.
Having funding available for mesothelioma researchers is not enough to develop innovative treatments that may cure this disease. Researchers also need access to high-quality samples with annotated data.
Researchers can search the well-documented database for the samples that will help them do their work. They can make progress more quickly because they can better collaborate with other researchers through the database.
The future of mesothelioma research must include resources like those available through the NMVB. As more samples are added to the registry, more researchers can conduct studies that help them make real advancements in diagnosing and treating mesothelioma and that give real results.Get Your FREE Mesothelioma Packet
Page Medically Reviewed and Edited by Anne Courtney, AOCNP, DNP
Anne Courtney has a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and is an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner. She has years of oncology experience working with patients with malignant mesothelioma, as well as other types of cancer. Dr. Courtney currently works at University of Texas LIVESTRONG Cancer Institutes.