16 Apr 2011

Cancer research tissue bank to seek Maori samples

11:14 am on 16 April 2011

A new tissue bank at Middlemore Hospital in south Auckland aims to collect more samples from Maori and Pacific Island people.

The Middlemore Tissue Bank has been set up to collect samples of tumours and other types of tissue for the benefit of cancer researchers.

It has so far collected some 600 samples from 34 Middlemore Hospital patients suffering cancers of the blood, but has the capacity for about 480,000 samples.

It hopes to have 300 donors from throughout Auckland by the end of the year.

Curator Daphne Mason told Waatea News that people from the Maori and Pacific communities have been reluctant to agree to give small samples for diagnosis and research so the bank is liaising with Maori elders and the hospital's Maori health team on suitable protocols.

"We acknowledge that tissue that's donated is very precious taonga and that role of kaitiaki (guardian) that we have, we do take very seriously."

Ms Mason says the bank goes to great lengths to ensure material donated is treated respectfully. She says having a collection of pre-cleared samples on hand will speed up research.

The tissue bank is the first of its kind in the North Island. A facility is already operating in Christchurch.