Dr. Michael Feldman at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn) has been a collaborator on the TIES project almost from its inception. Penn has already processed more 940,000 reports, creating highly-annotated and detailed clinical data linked to remainder FFPE blocks – a great way to fuel translational research. More than 35 researchers are now active on the Penn TIES node and there are already plenty of success stories. Dr. Feldman credits a lot of the success on TIES “getting progressively easier and easier to use. It’s the type of software that you can put into the investigator’s hands, with just a little bit of training, and they can be self-sufficient.”

Why does TIES make such a difference? Feldman notes that “one recent TIES query resulted in a $500,000 award! An investigator submitting an R01 supplement on our Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) wanted to study the development of pancreatic metastases using a specialized Next Geberation Sampling (NGS) pipeline for immune repertoire genes.” But would there be enough samples to study at Penn? “The idea for the research was great, but if we didn’t have the tissue to do the science, then the idea couldn’t go any further.” With TIES, Feldman was able to get back to the researcher  ”within eight minutes” to provide the preliminary data he needed to show that Penn had both primary and metastases on enough cases of pancreatic cancer. The project was funded and is now underway.

Excitement is also growing at Penn for use of the TIES Cancer Research Network, enabling Penn researchers to study rare conditions and rare phenotypes by accessing data and samples across the entire TIES Cancer Research Network. Feldman’s first foray into using TCRN was a study of Rosai-Dorfman disease – a very rare histiocytic disorder of unknown etiology. The disease has been long suspected to be infectious in origin, but few centers have a sufficient number of cases to warrant analysis. Feldman wanted to try using PathoChip, a functional gene array, as a high-throughput method for testing samples against known and unknown infectious agents. This is where TIES and TCRN comes in. Searching across the entire network, Feldman was able to identify Rosai-Dorfman disease cases with associated FFPE at three TCRN institutions and has already transferred the material using the TCRN model agreement. The PathoChip analysis, which would have been nearly impossible without TCRN, is already underway. Furthermore, Dr. Feldman is confident that his team will “be doing a number of additional studies now to find cases like Rosai-Dorfman disease.”

When asked what TIES could do better or improve upon, Dr. Feldman said, “It’s already in the works. The virtual slides have been integrated already, and there’s been a number of features that have helped it come along that I think will help with the integration of biosample banks’ frozen samples.” With strong confidence in TIES software, Dr. Feldman believes more rare disease scientific studies can be conducted and shared with scientists across the country.

What do you think of this study? How have you been using TIES software to enhance your research?

Dr. Feldman is currently Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the Director of Pathology Informatics for the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. His expertise is in head and neck pathology and breast pathology, and he has been a member of the American Society for Clinical Pathology and College of American Pathology for many years.