The Center for Translational Cancer Research

Science & Education


A pilot project of the NCCCP evaluates how NCI’s guidelines for collection and storage of specimens can be applied nationwide to benefit the entire cancer research community. Christiana Care’s Department of Pathology and Laboratory medicine “accessions,” or officially accepts, more than 28,000 surgical pathology specimens a year. According to Christiana Care Tissue Procurement Section chief pathologist Mary Iacocca, M.D. “Access to such a broad and diverse cross-section of tissue and blood samples gives researchers a great opportunity to study both normal and cancerous cells,” she says. “Our goal is to continue to expand the types of human tissue specimens we collect, especially for translational research projects. We get a number of requests from investigators for specific tissues from different parts of the body and we want to be as responsive as possible to those requests.”

As Director of the Tissue Procurement Center in the Department of Pathology at Christiana Care and the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, Dr. Iacocca plays a key role in translational cancer research. The Tissue Procurement Center provides a resource which links scientists at the University of Delaware’s Department of Biological Sciences, at the AI Dupont Hospital for Children, and DBI with clinicians at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center for cancer research projects. Increased tissue procurement enhances the resources available and funding possibilities for translational research studies that involve the application of basic science toward potential therapies.



This Registry exists to identify and document cancer risk factors that run in Delaware families. Currently the registry contains information on approximately 900 families and some 31,000 individuals from Delaware and neighboring states who either have cancer or are at high risk for developing some form of the disease. The registry contains demographic information (age, sex, race, geographic residence and occupation), and documents cancers and other diseases present, as well as pertinent clinical data and follow-up, personal lifestyle, and genetic factors that can increase a person's risk for developing some types of cancer. Zohra Ali-Khan Catts, MS, CGC, a full time genetics counselor at the HFGCC serves as project director of the FCRR Currently, she and her staff are working to build and incorporate all of the collected data into a comprehensive database which will list all family pedigrees including as many generations as possible. Once the data is updated, the plan is to analyze the data with the purpose of identifying families that have patterns of cancer that are consistent with hereditary cancer but do not have known gene mutations. For example, several families have been identified with a clear pattern of hereditary breast cancer but who are negative for all of the presently known mutations. This information will be used to develop new study ideas, such as new candidate gene search and epidemiological studies. It also will permit identification of any as yet unappreciated cancer clusters in the region that might be associated with environmental factors rather than genetics.


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