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From the time of its establishment, the integration of care and science has been of central importance in the Princess Máxima Center. A key factor in this integration is the biobank, i.e., a stored collection of patient materials. On January 28, 2020, we added tissue contributed by the 1000th patient to the biobank.
All Dutch children with cancer come to the Princess Máxima Center. We ask the children and parents for their permission to store material in our biobank. Patient tissue, including that of rare types of tumors, is stored in this biobank for future research. It enables us to use the latest technology to gain an understanding of how certain tumors develop and how best to treat them. This research can give us the basis we need to improve treatment plans and develop new medicines. Dr. Valérie de Haas, chairwoman of the Biobank committee: 'Thanks to the biobank, we are able to conduct scientific research for the purpose of developing more effective treatment for future patients.'
Permission of children and parents Immediately upon being admitted to the Máxima, doctors request permission to store material in the biobank. To confirm a diagnosis, blood samples are taken, a biopsy is taken or a bone marrow aspiration is performed. The residual material that is not used to make a diagnosis can, upon consent, be stored in the biobank. Children over the age of 16 and parents may withdraw their previously granted consent at any time.
Scientific research As an example, the researchers can isolate DNA from the children's blood. This DNA is crucial for research into genetic changes that can cause cancer. Professor Frank Holstege, chairman of the biobank's founding team, says: 'DNA research is only one out of a vast range of research possibilities that benefit from the biobank. For instance, we can cultivate tumor cells in the laboratory to discover new molecular properties and to test medication.'
Access by researchers 'Researchers do not have unconditional access to the materials,' says Valérie de Haas. 'We issue materials upon request. And we are meticulous in handling those requests.' Researchers are required to submit a substantiated request for the committee to decide whether the project dovetails with the mission of the Princess Máxima Center and therefore whether the request can be honored. Since 2018, the Biobank Committee has approved approximately 75 applications.
Frank Holstege: 'No biobank means no research. We are extremely grateful to the parents and children for their trust. It underlines the unique character of the Máxima: close collaboration between patients, healthcare providers and researchers towards achieving a common goal.'