, Volume 58, Issue 1, pp 31-39

Policy guidelines for the utilization of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissue sections: the UNC SPORE experience

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Paraffin blocks represent a valuable resource that has allowed investigators to apply today's technology to address scientific questions in a shorter period of time and in more diverse populations than would have been possible with fresh or frozen tissue. However, in addition to being an exhaustible resource, there is concern regarding the appropriate use of these tissues, both with respect to medical or legal considerations and quality control and quality assurance practices. We describe policy guidelines to address these concerns, including: safeguards to address medical/legal and patient confidentiality issues, quality control and quality assurance for tissue sectioning, processing and storage, database management for sample tracking, and scientific review for utilization of specimens. These policies and procedures have been developed and implemented by the University of North Carolina (UNC) Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in the Breast Cancer Immunohistochemistry (IHC) Core laboratory, in collaboration with our study pathologists, participants, and research investigators. It is our hope that the information and experience described here may stimulate discussion that can ultimately lead to a uniform policy for handling formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissues in research.