Donating body to cancer research
April 29, 2008 11:46 AM   Subscribe

A dear friend's mother is dying of lung cancer. It's Stage IV metastatic lung cancer that has spread to her brain, bones and lymph nodes. She very much wants her remains to be donated specifically for cancer research and we're having trouble finding out how to do that.

She and her family would prefer that her remains are not used for general medical school anatomy training, but rather that the tumor samples and specific pathology of her disease might help cancer researchers in some way.

Her own doctors have not been able to assist with this, and we are calling various willed body programs without having much luck. Our time frame is a few weeks, so we'd like to get this planned as soon as possible.

Might you know of a facility who would be interested in granting her wish and that would benefit from studying her body?
posted by judith to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It would help if we knew what part of the country this is. Dealing locally is probably easier than shipping remains cross-country.
posted by chrisamiller at 11:55 AM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: Of course. She's in New York City.
posted by judith at 12:01 PM on April 29, 2008

I'm going to assume you're in the U.S., since your location on your profile looks like a zip code. The American Cancer Society might be able to help you find the information you're looking for.
posted by amyms at 12:04 PM on April 29, 2008

I am so sorry to hear this. Good for you for helping with this decision.

Check out Humane Trauma Training, from the Physicians' Committee for Responsible Medicine -- particularly the list of state organizations that accept cadavers for research purposes. Most are university affiliated (and might have cancer researchers?), but maybe your state's contact is an anatomical board that might get you closer to finding the right recipient. Good luck.
posted by MonkeyToes at 12:04 PM on April 29, 2008

I'm sorry to hear about this.

You could try contacting the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. They just opened a new research center, so hopefully they can point you in the right direction of something locally. Good luck.
posted by Verdandi at 12:24 PM on April 29, 2008

800-227-2345 is the American Cancer Society's phone number. You can call them to ask for orgs that will do this. They are open 24-7.

You can also check out because they offer different options for those looking to donate their bodies or organs.
posted by fructose at 12:37 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: She was a patient at Sloan before transferring to hospice last week. Her doctor there didn't have any suggestions.
posted by judith at 12:42 PM on April 29, 2008

"Biobanking" is a common word for what your friend's mom would like to do. A possible avenue is searching for a clinical trial that is banking tissue from lung cancer patients, such as this trial. Unfortunately this particular example is from the Netherlands, but maybe you could contact the principal investigators anyway and see what they say. I have no idea what kind of timeframe she might need to participate in something like this.

Sorry to hear about this situation. It is really good of her and her family to consider ways to help future patients.
posted by slenderloris at 1:09 PM on April 29, 2008

(speaking as a cancer researcher) You might want to contact the organization in the US that coordinates clinical trials and ask if there are any trials requiring that kind of tissue. The NCI is a good place to start for you since you've said this is NYC, I'm not sure if this is the exact place to start but they may be able to point you in the right direction (if you were in Canada I could help more as a few of my friends actually work for the Clinical Trials Group here).

One thing to ask about would be donating to a "tissue array" for Stage IV metastatic lung cancer, essentially it is a little slide on which a small amount of tissue from a tumour is adhered, you can get 100's of patients on a single chip. They're really nifty for genetic profiling diseases. She also might be able to donate to a centralized tissue bank from which researchers can draw samples when they need to.

Best of luck to you and I hope things go as well as they can for your friend's family. My thoughts go out to you guys.
posted by LunaticFringe at 2:31 PM on April 29, 2008

Response by poster: Thank you for all of your help. For people who find this thread in the future, I'll summarize my research findings:

Basically there seem to be two options - find someone who will take whole body donations but can't guarantee the body goes to specific research areas *or* find someone who wants tissue for specific areas but can't handle whole body donations (which would then require the family to arrange an autopsy and tissue donation on their own).

For the first option, an organization called the Anatomy Gifts Registry seems to be the most promising. Anyone have any experience with them?

For the second, there are a few clinical trials in progress that are working in this area. I found most of them through the National Cancer Institute.

Roswell Park, suggested above and by some other sources, may not be able to help us specifically, but were by far the kindest and most helpful people and they genuinely want donor tissue like this.

Most tissue repositories seem to get their tissues from medical school cadavers or transplant donation organizations.

I will update the thread if I find anything else. Again, thank you all.
posted by judith at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Another update for future reference.

The National Disease Research Interchange and the International Institute for the Advancement of Medicine both accept whole body donations. They will match tissues with current research needs and then return the remains to the family.

Best of luck to other families considering these options. My friend's mother passed away this morning and we are grateful that we were able to find this information in time.
posted by judith at 12:13 PM on April 30, 2008


Glad you were able to make appropriate accomodations.
posted by chrisamiller at 5:07 PM on April 30, 2008

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