The CHTN was initiated in 1987 by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Diagnosis Program to provide increased access to human tissue for basic and applied science from academia and industry to accelerate the advancement of discoveries in cancer diagnosis and treatment. The CHTN operates on a unique prospective procurement model rather than a banking model and focuses on being user friendly. While a bank collects, processes and stores specimens in a "one-shoe-fits all" approach, the CHTN staff work closely with each investigator to tailor the collection, processing, temporary storage and distribution of tissues in order to meet his/her exact needs and to support his/her research in a timely manner. A diagnostic pathologist reviews each request and can help investigators select the proper tissues and protocols to support their research. All tissues distributed must meet quality assurance/control standards, ensuring investigators a high quality product. The CHTN has pioneered the use of quality assurance/control methods in tissue resources and has trained personnel at other tissue resources in the importance of quality control of tissues used in research.
The CHTN is comprised of five adult divisions and one pediatric division. Each adult division coordinates investigator applications based upon the investigator's geographic location. The Pediatric Division manages all investigators who request pediatric specimens only. The CHTN divisions work together as a seamless unit to fulfill requests. The CHTN's specialized informatics systems allows each division to effectively communicate and network investigator requests between divisions.
The major goal of the CHTN is to facilitate the use of human tissues in biomedical research. The CHTN accomplishes this goal by:
- Consistently supplying high quality human tissues to investigators
- Taking on leadership roles in the development of best practices and guidelines for the operation of tissue repositories
- Aiding in the development of other tissue resources via consultation
- Sharing the CHTN informatics program with other resources at no cost
- Educating national and international leaders in tissue resources through publications, consultations, site visits and/or formal training programs
The CHTN is involved in educating the research community through the following efforts:
- Participating in the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER)
- Teaching workshops and providing publications on how to develop and operate a tissue repository
- Participating in international meetings and conferences regarding issues that relate to tissue repositories (e.g. human subjects and privacy)
- Assisting in the evaluation of factors that affect the usefulness of human tissues in research and publication of these results
- Involving patient advocates in order to respond to the public need and to increase public awareness of issues related to tissue resources
- Referring investigators to other resources that may provide assistance in meeting investigator needs