Maintaining clinical tissue archives and supporting human research: challenges and solutions

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2011 Mar;135(3):347-53. doi: 10.5858/2010-0044-SA.1.


Context: The increasing number of requests for use of clinically archived tissue in translational research poses unique challenges. Conflicts may arise between pathologists who are responsible for overseeing and preserving the tissues and investigators who need these materials for research purposes.

Objectives: To evaluate the status of our institution's Tissue Registry Archive and to develop updated written policies and procedures to support a new modern and robust tracking system with features of a library loan system.

Design: An observational study was performed.

Results: We found the existing process for managing loans of tissue (slides and paraffin blocks) to be insufficient for the complexity and volume of this task. After extensive customization, a new tracking system was implemented in January 2008. Analysis of the first year of the system's use (2008) showed that of the 206,330 slides and 51,416 blocks loaned out in 2008, 92% and 94%, respectively, were returned by the due date. These rates were markedly improved from those before the new system: 61% and 47%, respectively, in 2005. Material permanently "lost" in 2008 represented only 0.02% of slides and 0.05% of blocks, none of which was the only diagnostic material for the case.

Conclusions: With expanding needs for archived tissues for clinical care and growing demands for translational research, it is essential that pathology departments at institutions with large tissue-based research endeavors have a tracking and management system in place to meet clinical, educational, and research needs, as well as legal requirements.

MeSH terms

  • Conflict, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Pathology / organization & administration*
  • Pathology / standards
  • Policy Making
  • Registries*
  • Tissue Banks / organization & administration*
  • Tissue Banks / standards
  • Translational Research, Biomedical*