Molecular Epidemiology Resources Core (MERC)

Director: Carlos H.F. Chan, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Surgery
Manager: Ashley McCarthy, MPH

MER Core Offices: 11510 Pomerantz Family Pavilion (PFP)
Telephone: 1-319-467-5839

Email: CancerCenter-MER@healthcare.uiowa.edu

Purpose

The goal of the Molecular Epidemiology Resource Core (MERC) is to establish and maintain a cohort of cancer patients in order to support a broad range of cutting-edge research that identifies clinical (including co-morbid diseases), epidemiologic (including lifestyle and other exposures), host genetic, tumor, and treatment factors that impact on short- and long-term outcomes including survival and quality of life.

The following three aims of MERC support this goal:

  1. MERC is a network of prospective observational data repositories that utilize highly annotated, prospective, observational data from defined cohorts of cancer patients;
  2. MERC supports research that requires tumor tissue from patients in the MER cohort, obtained in collaboration with the Tissue Procurement Core and the Department of Pathology; and
  3. MERC supports studies that are dependent on a linkage of clinical and molecular data in collaboration with the Biostatistics Core.

Guidelines for Collaborating with the MERC

University of Iowa investigators as well as those external to the university are encouraged to request tissues, data, or specimens from the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center MERC. The MERC gives highest priority to University of Iowa investigators if it receives competing requests for services. All investigators who are interested in obtaining data, specimens, or human tissue samples from MERC should begin by contacting the MERC in one of two ways:

  • UI BioShare – UI BioShare is the UI Laboratory Information Management (LIM) System, an associated service provided to faculty, investigators, and study teams participating in research that involves human derived biomaterials such as tissue and blood specimens. The UI BioShare Service assists investigators and study teams alike as they navigate and utilize the LIM system (Labmatrix) used to catalog biomaterials collected for research throughout the University of Iowa medical campus. To submit a request or for an overview of the samples available, please submit a consultation request through the UI Health Care Enterprise Service Center (ESC). For more information on UI BioShare please visit: https://its.uiowa.edu/ui-bioshare
  • For disease or cancer site-specific questions, please contact the coordinator for that MER or email CancerCenter-MER@healthcare.uiowa.edu

Enrollment Process

Research Consult

At University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, patient care and the patient experience are very important. As a teaching hospital, research and education are also important, and many members of the health care team at Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center are involved in a variety of research activities aimed to find better ways to treat and diagnose health related disorders. We have made time during the first appointments a patient may have in the cancer center to talk about research opportunities. 

This consult is not required, nor is participation in research projects. Patient care is not affected by the decision of whether or not to participate in research activities. Patients may contact research staff at the cancer center to opt out of a research consultation visit by emailing CancerCenter-MER@healthcare.uiowa.edu or calling 1-319-467-5839.

PERCH: UI Health Care’s Unified Biorepository Consent

In an effort to simplify the consent process for patients, in 2018 Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center introduced the Patients Enhancing Research Collaborations at Holden (PERCH) partnership. PERCH utilizes the unified biorepository consent, bringing together many active biorepository projects including the Molecular Epidemiology Resource Core, the Tissue Procurement Core/UI BioBank, and the Gynecologic Malignancies Biobank as well as introducing new projects, including the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN). The PERCH is open to patients whether or not they have cancer or are being seen at Holden.

Molecular Epidemiology Resource (MER) Registries

Breast Tissue Disorders

Contact: Melissa Curry 1-319-356-4502
Director: Sonia Sugg, MD

The Breast Molecular Epidemiology Resource (BMER) collects serum, plasma, peripheral blood (DNA), and buffy coat from patients who have a proliferative disorder of the breast or may be at risk for a breast disorder. BMER also acquires both normal and tumor tissue. The BMER repository contains data and specimens on more than 1,200 patients.

Genito-Urologic Disorders

Contact: Celeste Charchalac 1-319-467-5833
Director: James Brown, MD
Co-investigator: Michael O’Donnell, MD

The Genito-Urologic Molecular Epidemiology Resource (GUMER) collects tissue, serum, plasma, DNA, and RNA from patients who have genito-urologic cancers such as prostate, bladder, kidney, testis, and penile. GUMER also collects normal tissue for comparison. The GUMER repository contains data and specimens on more than 600 patients.

Lymphoma

Contact: Ashley McCarthy 1-319-353-6125
Director: Brian Link, MD

The Lymphoma Molecular Epidemiology Resource (LMER) collects tissue, serum, plasma, peripheral blood (DNA), and buffy coat from patients who have lymphoma or other blood disorders. The LMER repository contains data and specimens on more than 2,000 patients.

Building on the successful collaboration of the LMER, a proposal for expanding the study to additional sites was funded in 2015. The Lymphoma Epidemiology of Outcomes (LEO) includes six additional sites within the United States and began to enroll patients on July 1, 2015.

Melanoma

Contact: Tina Knutson, 1-319-384-5287
Director: Yousef Zakharia, MD
Co-investigator: Aaron Bossler, MD

MaST enrolls new or previously diagnosed patients with melanoma or similar proliferative disorders of the eye, skin, or connective tissue. MaST maintains a repository of clinical data and biospecimen samples. Clinical data variables include pathological diagnostic details, corresponding treatment intervention, environmental assessment, bi-annual comorbidity follow up, and annual quality-of-life assessments. MaST collects tissue, serum, and peripheral blood (DNA). The MaST repository contains clinical data and biospecimens on more than 1,050 patients.

Multiple Myeloma and Related Disorders

Contact: Tina Knutson, 1-319-384-5287
Director: Michael Tomasson, MD and Yogesh Jethava, MD
Co-investigator: Umar Farooq, MD

The Multiple Myeloma Molecular Epidemiology Resource (MyMER) specimens include bone marrow, stem cells, and fluid and cells from fine needle aspirate biopsies of patients who have multiple myeloma. All samples are processed via collaboration with Fenghuang (Frank) Zhan, MD, PhD, professor of internal medicine specializing in hematology, oncology, and blood and marrow transplantation. The MyMER repository contains data on more than 200 patients.

Pancreatic, Biliary, and Gastrointestinal Disorders

Contact: Kristen Coleman, 1-319-467-5832
Director: Carlos Chan, MD, PhD
Co-investigator: Andrew Bellizzi, MD

The GI-MER collects tissue, serum, plasma, DNA, and RNA from patients who have pancreatic, biliary, or gastrointestinal disorders. GI-MER also collects normal tissue for comparison. The GI-MER repository contains data and specimens on more than 550 patients.

Co-principal investigators include Andrew Bellizzi, MD, clinical associate professor of pathology, and Laith Abushahin, MD, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine.

Sarcoma and Connective Tissue Disorders

Contact: Celeste Charchalac, 1-319-467-5833
Director: Munir Tanas, MD and Benjamin Miller, MD, MS

The Sarcoma Tissue Repository (STiR)  enrolls new or previously diagnosed patients with sarcoma or connective tissue or similar proliferative disorders of the bone, skin, or connective tissues. STiR maintains a repository of clinical data and biospecimen samples. Clinical data variables include pathological diagnostic details, corresponding treatment intervention, environmental assessment, bi-annual comorbidity follow-up, and annual quality of life assessments. STiR collects tissue, serum, and peripheral blood (DNA) on all returning patients. The STiR repository contains clinical data and biospecimens on more than 1,100 patients.