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Behind The Scenes Of Sanford's Biobank

August 29, 2011, 6:07 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

Behind The Scenes Of Sanford's Biobank
SIOUX FALLS, SD - It might sound like something out of a crime scene investigation show.  Sanford Health scientists are collecting blood, plasma and DNA.

However, they're using the genetic information to research breast cancer.  The samples will be stored in what's being called the Biobank with the hope of eventually finding a cure for a disease that impacts millions across the U.S.

Lou Waltner is hard at work, boosting others energy with a shot of caffeine, but these days, Waltner is struggling to find the energy herself to make it through the day.

"I'm halfway through my chemo.  And then I still have surgery and radiation, so I still have a ways to go," Waltner said.

Waltner was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. Some of her family members have also battled the disease.

"My mom died at 29 of breast cancer, so it was shocking when I ended up having breast cancer too," Waltner said.

Because of her past experiences, Waltner was the first person to take part in Sanford's Biobank.

Scientist Chun-Hung Chan is researching the genetics behind breast cancer at the Biobank.

"We're going to be collecting blood plasma, which is a component of your blood, and also DNA that we extract from your blood," Chan said.

The genetic information is then stored in tubes and placed in a freezer, set at -112 Fahrenheit.

"We have them on generators so once the samples come in here, they'll be very safe, and we'll be able to keep them for many years to come," Chan said.

It's hoped that the information stored here will not only help those with the disease today.

"The point of this study is to be able to in the future tell women more precisely what the genetic type of their tumor is and to design treatment for that individual tumor type," Dr. Gene Hoyme, the President of Sanford Research, said.

Researchers also hope what's learned today could one day help tomorrow's cancer patients. It's a hope Waltner shares with the scientists.

"That they will find a cure or find a way to detect it before it gets to the point where I'm at, where you have to go through the chemo, or surgery and radiation," Waltner said.

That's why she urges every woman to invest in the Biobank.

"It could help their daughter or granddaughter or their mother or someone in their family or a friend," Waltner said.

For now, Sanford is only accepting tissue and blood samples from people who have a family history of breast cancer.  The plan is to eventually allow all patients, whether they have cancer or not, to one day take part.

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