AIM at Melanoma Opens Third Branch of Fresh Frozen Primary Tissue Bank at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University


AIM at Melanoma and AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation announce the opening of the third branch of the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium (IMTBC) at the Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. The Portland site is one of six global locations of the consortium. These six institutions will collect a critical mass of fresh frozen primary tumor tissue—an initial goal of 500 samples in total—and corresponding patient data, which will be available to their researchers and to researchers around the world who apply to use it.

Planned research projects include identifying the difference in gene signatures between benign moles and primary melanoma, with the goal of developing a diagnostic test to know quickly and easily which moles and skin lesions are potentially deadly and which are benign; and evaluating the role that the primary tumor has on impacting the immune system, with the goal of discovering new approaches to reinvigorating the anti-tumor function of immune cells and letting our immune systems fight off the cancer.

A fresh-frozen primary tissue bank—fully annotated and collaborative—has never been achieved before in melanoma, and it has taken more than a decade of dedicated work to accomplish. The IMTBC is a global first because of the following combination of factors:

  • It’s a consortium—the six institutions are sharing data and tissue samples with each other
  • It’s collaborative—researchers around the world can apply to obtain tissue samples and data for research
  • The tissue will be fresh frozen—RNA is preserved, unlike in the standard formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded process
  • The tumors are primary—not metastasized
  • There will be a critical mass—a goal of 500 in the first two years, and continued collection thereafter
  • Full annotation will accompany each tissue—patient data, including full medical history (depersonalized), will be available for study along with the tissue
  • Samples will accompany each tissue—blood and urine samples will be collected for each patient

“A biobank of fresh frozen primary melanoma tissues is truly the pot of gold for research,” says Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., Chair, Department of Dermatology and Director, Melanoma Research Program, OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. “Critical information is available in the primary tumor—information we cannot get in metastasized tumors, such as predictive and prognostic factors. And when primary tumors are fresh frozen, RNA is intact, and the cell’s immune response is visible. This bank will be a treasure trove for researchers.”

OHSU is one of six total branches of the IMTBC—four in the United States and two in Australia. The University of Pittsburgh, Hillman Cancer Center site opened in April of this year, and the California Pacific Medical Center, San Francisco site opened in September. The remaining locations have approved their contracts to become fully functioning branches of the IMTBC and are awaiting only final details before they too will open and accelerate the collection of tissue. All of the institutions were selected because of their renowned melanoma research programs, and OHSU was selected in particular because of the research of Leachman and her longstanding commitment to the effort.

“When I told Sancy the plans for the IMTBC, she signed on immediately and has been an eager and supportive partner ever since,” says Valerie Guild, Founder and President of AIM at Melanoma.

“She is ready to use this tissue to further our knowledge about melanoma so we can ultimately find the cure.”

IMTBC is a project of AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation, a 501(c)(3) created by AIM at Melanoma and funded by donations to AIM as well as to Chicago-based Skin of Steel, a non-profit founded by Susan Steel, who passed away from melanoma in 2016. Interested donors and researchers are welcome to query Alicia Rowell (

ABOUT THE AIM AT MELANOMA FOUNDATION and the AIM AT MELANOMA RESEARCH FOUNDATION: Melanoma is one of the fastest-growing cancers in the United States and worldwide. It's one of the most complex forms of cancer and has the most mutations of all solid cancers. Founded in 2004, AIM at Melanoma is a global foundation dedicated to finding more effective treatments and, ultimately, the cure for melanoma while improving the lives of those it affects. AIM at Melanoma Research Foundation is the research arm of AIM at Melanoma and focuses solely on global, collaborative melanoma research projects. AIM’s global research initiatives include The International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium, The Melanoma International Collaboration for Adaptive Trials, and the International Melanoma Working Group. AIM at Melanoma provides education, connection to resources and opportunities for meaningful engagement to help patients and caregivers/families better face the challenges of melanoma. For more information, visit and follow our groundbreaking initiatives on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Recent Videos
Image of a woman with blond hai
Dr. Manisha Thakuria in an interview with CURE
Dr. Beth Goldstein in an interview with CURE
Treating Skin Cancer Panel
Dr. Anna C. Pavlick
Lorenzo G. Cohen
Dr. Jedd D. Wolchok
Multidisciplinary Approach Panel
Dr. Nicholas Sanfilippo
Related Content