Following on from the previous post, I have now returned from this year's excellent NCRI Conference. There are always difficult decisions about which sessions to attend and invariably I want to be in several places at once but there was one session that really was an absolute 'must' for me. That was the session hosted by Mairead MacKenzie of Independent Cancer Patients' Voice (ICPV) concerning tissue donation and titled 'The Issues with Tissues'. This session explored issues surrounding donation, collection and use of human tissue in cancer research.
The session opened with Mairead setting out the objectives and outlining how we would achieve that. Then it was over to Mariam Jamal-Hanjani who made a brilliant presentation of the rationale for the collection of tissue, picking up on the issues of heterogeneity and disease evolution that had featured in an earlier plenary lecture. The sparkle continued as she passed the baton over to Matthew Krebs, who took us into the collection of blood samples and analysis of circulating tumour cells.
The next section of the session looked at the issue of consent, with Helen Bulbeck outlining the work of Brainstrust and Hilary Stobart's powerful presentation on the role, rewards and challenges of the volunteers at Nottingham Health Science Biobank. The NHSB volunteers are part of an innovative consent pathway that clearly is bearing fruit in this important area of consent. (Hilary also featured in NHSB's poster on the use of volunteers.)
In the third section Jacqueline Hall took us through the challenges and complexities arising in the pan-Eupropean environment. I was particularly struck by her neat summing up of what was required to move forward as "simple and clear rules, rigorously applied".
The session then moved into a good question & answer and discussion session chaired by Bridget Wilkins.
ICPV are working, in collaboration with other groups, individuals and organisations, on the production of a public guide to tissue donation and, as a preliminary step, at the end of the session there were questionnaires distributed covering aspects of tissue donation. These questionnaires have been devised by a small group of young pathologists.
I will write about other conference sessions over the coming days, but - once again - this was an excellent conference. Yesterday (5th November) was the anniversary of my own diagnosis of breast cancer. I can think of no more fitting way to spend the day than in attending this conference, nor of spending the evening than at the conference dinner and dance celebrating life and the ongoing work into cancer research.