The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) cancer registry program is currently evaluating the use of archival, diagnostic, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue obtained through SEER cancer registries, functioning as honest brokers for deidentified tissue and associated data. To determine the feasibility of this potential program, laboratory policies for sharing tissue for research needed to be assessed.


To understand the willingness of pathology laboratories to share archival diagnostic tissue for cancer research and related policies.


Seven SEER registries administered a 27-item questionnaire to pathology laboratories within their respective registry catchment areas. Only laboratories that processed diagnostic FFPE specimens and completed the questionnaire were included in the analysis.


Of the 153 responding laboratories, 127 (83%) responded that they process FFPE specimens. Most (n = 88; 69%) were willing to share tissue specimens for research, which was not associated with the number of blocks processed per year by the laboratories. Most laboratories retained the specimens for at least 10 years. Institutional regulatory policies on sharing deidentified tissue varied considerably, ranging from requiring a full Institutional Review Board review to considering such use exempt from Institutional Review Board review, and 43% (55 of 127) of the laboratories did not know their terms for sharing tissue for research.


This project indicated a general willingness of pathology laboratories to participate in research by sharing FFPE tissue. Given the variability of research policies across laboratories, it is critical for each SEER registry to work with laboratories in their catchment area to understand such policies and state legislation regulating tissue retention and guardianship.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.

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This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health through contracts HHSN261201300009I, HHSN261201300013I, HHSN261201300014I, HHSN261201300016I, HHSN261201300019I, HHSN261201300020I issued to the 6 SEER cancer registries.

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