University of Florida Health Cancer Center researchers are working on a groundbreaking resource for basic science researchers and clinicians to advance cancer-related microbiome research: the first microbiome biorepository in the country.
“The microbiome biorepository is designed to create a large collection and storage system for microbiome samples for basic science researchers and clinicians,” said Ryan Thomas, M.D., FACS, assistant professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of surgery. “It serves as a central area to submit samples, disseminate samples and act as a one-stop shop for people doing these very complicated studies.”
The microbiome is a collection of trillions of microorganisms that live on and within every individual, including bacteria, viruses and fungi, Thomas said. Abnormal microorganisms can contribute to inflammation and cancer development.
The biorepository, which will likely be housed in UF’s Cancer and Genetics Research Complex, will be available to any UF researcher or clinician who is pursuing cancer-related microbiome research.
The ability to collect and have access to human samples has been a limitation of cancer studies and microbiome research, Thomas said. Through the microbiome biorepository’s patient data and donated specimens, information from one study can be applied to another for data and idea generation.
“This is really going to elevate the microbiome research at UF and the UF Health Cancer Center and will allow these studies to be performed,” said Thomas, a member of the microbiome working group. “The field of microbiome research is just exploding, and we have national and international experts here at UF.”
The idea came to fruition when the UF Health Cancer Center’s microbiome working group, which falls under the Cancer Therapeutics and Host Response research program, identified the lack of a centralized microbiome biorepository as a limitation in their cancer research efforts. The group presented the idea to UF Health Cancer Center leadership, who recognized this as a novel and important resource for the institution.
“The microbiome biorepository will bridge the gap between basic science researchers and clinical researchers to really provide that translational cancer research we’re so often looking for,” Thomas said. “The benefit of this is that it will really combine those two groups and break down any silos that are present to allow and foster greater cancer research collaboration at UF.”
Another advantage of the biorepository is how quickly and easily it will be able to start, Thomas said. The biorepository will be able to be used in active clinical trials almost immediately. Cancer Center investigators are encouraged to incorporate microbiome studies into their trials and can seek help with ideas from the microbiome working group.
“This is a groundbreaking UF Health Cancer Center program that involves a lot of people,” Thomas said. “It’s really a service that is going to create a huge footprint in Florida and we hope nationally.”