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President's Column
PresidentI promised at the end of the piece I wrote for the Autumn Newsletter to say something more about the two National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) initiatives with which I am involved, because they are important to anyone with an interest in Pathology and Research.

First, briefly, the Confederation of Cancer Biobanks.  The Confederation website - (1) lists the 10 UK Banks signed up to full membership, (2) links to two documents, the Guiding Principles and Memorandum of Understanding which together define the Confederation and the principles to which its members sign up; and (3) provides access to the Biosample Search Portal. 
This latter facility is for researchers wishing to work on human tissue samples of particular cancers.  Member Banks list on the portal the samples they hold that are available to outside researchers and invite applications for their use directly.  Thus Banks retain control over access to their holdings, but promote the use of the material.  The main aim of the Confederation is to make more high quality tissue accessible to more researchers.

The second NCRI initiative which has been taking up much of my time is the Taskforce I am Chairing which has produced recommendations and initiated actions aimed to promote the engagement of pathologists with research.  Our Report will be presented to the NCRI Board in early March and focuses on three areas.

  1. Rejuvenation of Histopathology Research in Medical Schools and the NHS
    To address the drastic decline since 2000 in the Academic Pathology Workforce we have recommended a funding initiative to support the development of Centres of Excellence in Histopathology Research to act as a nucleus for rebuilding national capacity.  We have also spelt out the requirement for proper costing of tissue collection and processing, so that these can be fully built into research budgets and service support costs to enable diagnostic histopathologists to contribute to research.
  2. Creation of a clear practical pathway through the regulatory and governance framework
    We offer to work with the regulatory bodies to create such a clear, consolidated and comprehensive resource.  We recommend that processes allowing patients to give prospective, generic, and enduring consent for research on surplus tissue should be built into routine NHS practice, and that Research Tissue Banks should be an integral part of NHS Diagnostic Histopathology Departments, as they already are in some Centres.
  3. Promoting and encouraging enhanced recognition of the benefits of pathology research for patients
    We recommend that research funders encourage the interaction of pathologists and researchers by requiring evidence of the engagement of pathologists in grant applications for translational research, and by including pathologists on grant reviewing Committees.  We also recommend the development of a communications programme to promote the role of pathology expertise in clinical excellence and high quality translational research.  Path Soc and the Royal College have together begun developing such a programme.

I have been less Society-centric than usual in my Report, but this is what the Society and its members should be doing – looking outward and trying to influence the bigger picture related to our mission of understanding disease.  There is a reasonable chance, in my view, that some of our recommendations will be acted on – some we have been able to begin to take forward already – watch this space.

David Levison
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