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Key takeaways: The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank was started by researchers in the early
2000s. It is a virtual biorepository, and provides real samples of mesothelioma cells for research
endeavors. It’s also run by the donations of patients: nobody is required to submit their organic
samples. There are implications for its use in conjunction with AI in healthcare: namely, accurate
and speedy diagnosis.

Mesothelioma virtual bank

What is the Function of the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank?


The University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with other academic research centers in the area,
created the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank in 2006. It functions as a biorepository, which is
a site for collecting biological samples and data. Importantly, the Virtual Bank does not esteem
demographics or personal information; while it collects these data, they are kept separate from
the organic samples. The Virtual Bank also stores information on whether the patient was known
to have been exposed to asbestos, either occupationally, environmentally, or second-hand. This
has implications for both future asbestos regulations and legal pursuits of justice. If a
mesothelioma patient wants to send their bio-samples, like biopsies, tissue samples, or blood
samples, they are encouraged to do so. However, a patient is not required to submit their data to
the Virtual Bank; it operates on a volunteer basis.
The Virtual Bank facilitates the research of mesothelioma by providing easy access to the
phenotype (the physical presentation) and genotype (genetic arrangement) of mesothelioma cells.
And, because we know that the cells of mesothelioma are heterogeneous, or have different
presentations and genomes depending on where they’re located in a tumor, the Virtual Bank is an
invaluable resource. It can be used to research new treatment options, to review the
manifestations of mesothelioma, and to apply techniques to other cancers, too.

Is the Virtual Bank the Same as a National Registry?


A national registry would partially serve as a biorepository, as it would likely contain the same
kinds of biological data that the Virtual Bank would (tissue/blood samples, copies of biopsy
results). However, an important distinction between the two is the accessibility of personal
information: a national registry would facilitate the connecting of doctors, treatment centers, and
support groups with patients. Patients do not have access to other patients’ information, asbestos
exposure sites/occupations, and resources through the Virtual Bank. The United States does not
currently have a national registry for mesothelioma (but it does have one for other diseases, like
ALS).

Implications for Use


The National Bank has certainly been useful for research efforts for possible treatments.
However, it could also be used to train AI in order to properly diagnose mesothelioma (given its
heterogeneity). If an algorithm can “learn” all of the genotypes and phenotypes of mesothelioma,
it might be able to diagnose patients with higher accuracy and speed, thus giving patients a better
prognosis.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, please call The Halpern Law
Firm at (800)-505-6000. We are here to help you navigate the legal process of filing a claim
to receive compensation for your cancer diagnosis. We help mesothelioma victims and their
families in Pennsylvania.

Sources:
Amin, W., Parwani, A. V., Melamed, J., Flores, R., Pennathur, A., Valdivieso, F., Whelan, N.
B., Landreneau, R., Luketich, J., Feldman, M., Pass, H. I., & Becich, M. J. (2013).
National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank: A Platform for Collaborative Research and
Mesothelioma Biobanking Resource to Support Translational Research. Lung Cancer
International, 2013, 765748. https://doi.org/10.1155/2013/765748

Cummings, K. J., Becich, M. J., Blackley, D. J., Deapen, D., Harrison, R., Hassan, R.,
Henley, S. J., Hesdorffer, M., Horton, D. K., Mazurek, J. M., Pass, H. I., Taioli, E., Wu,
X.-C., Zauderer, M. G., & Weissman, D. N. (2020). Workshop summary: Potential
usefulness and feasibility of a US National Mesothelioma Registry. American Journal
of Industrial Medicine, 63(2), 105–114. https://doi.org/10.1002/ajim.23062

J. V. C. S. (2023, May 17). The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank: Advancing Research
and Treatment | Blogs | CDC.
https://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2023/05/17/nmvb/


Written By Carina Filemyr

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Page Reviewed and Edited by
Dave Halpern, Mesothelioma Attorney

Dave Halpern is a Pennsylvania and New Jersey mesothelioma attorney with over 30 years of experience. He has investigated hundreds of cases and won numerous multimillion dollar settlements and verdicts for asbestos victims. Dave prides himself on working tirelessly to help his clients in their time of need. 

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