The SEER Residual Tissue Repository (RTR) program was established in 2003. The RTR maintains biospecimens obtained from three of SEER’s population-based cancer registries: Iowa, Hawaii, and Los Angeles. Investigators at government, academic, and nonprofit institutions may apply to the program to obtain specimens to study biomarkers, etiology, and other aspects with a population-based sample of cancer cases. This enables comparisons with all cases in the registry catchment to assess biases that may exist because not all specimens were available.

About the Program

The SEER registries are population-based and collect data on all cancer cases in their geographic areas. The types of information that may be available include:

  • demographic information
  • tumor characteristics
  • limited treatment data
  • survival and cause of death

Thus, the SEER registries provide a unique opportunity for performing biospecimen studies on a representative sample of cancer cases from a particular geographic area. Recognizing this potential, the SEER Residual Tissue Repository (RTR) program was established in 2003.

The RTR program aims to retain specimens associated with SEER patients that would otherwise be discarded. Investigators can use these specimens for research on prognostic biomarkers, etiology, and other hypotheses relevant to the population-based sample.

Most RTR biospecimens are formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue blocks; however, some other biospecimens are maintained within the RTR, including a pancreatic tissue microarray. The RTR:

  • Enables studies on rare cancers by drawing from multiple registries to increase statistical power.
  • Allows validation studies on specimens from population-based registries.
  • Allows evaluation of bias within tumor collections since the SEER database provides information on all cancer cases in the registry catchment.
  • Makes available the wealth of SEER data on each cancer.
  • Allows analysis of trends in incidence, survival and treatment over the history and diversity of the SEER registries.
  • Permits updating of survival data after a tissue microarray (TMA) is formed without violating privacy protections.

Participating Registries

The following three registries have on-site residual tissue repositories, as well as virtual repositories (specimens housed at pathology facilities across the registry catchment area):

The residual tissue repositories at the three registries cover over 60,000 cancer cases from diverse geographic regions (urban/rural) and racial/ethnic groups.

RTR activities include the Hawaii registry's production of tissue microarrays for colorectal and breast cancer, collaboration of all participating registries with the NCI Tissue Array Research Program (TARP) Lab to produce a pancreatic cancer tissue microarray, and consideration of other cancer sites for future tissue microarray generation. In addition, a variety of studies have used RTR specimens for non-TMA projects.

SEER RTR Committee

The SEER RTR Committee is composed of investigators from participating SEER registries and the NCI SEER Program/Surveillance Research Program. The committee works closely with numerous collaborators to design and implement population-based biospecimen research projects. The committee will

  • ensure the overall process involving the RTR studies coincide with program goals,
  • review proposals, progress reports, and manuscripts, and
  • make decisions regarding the use of specimens and other desired resources.

Tumors by Cancer Site

The availability of these biospecimens may vary. In addition, in some instances, this collection can be supplemented with biospecimens held by pathology laboratories within the registry catchment areas.

Estimated Number of Tumors for 20 Leading Cancer Sites, SEER Residual Tissue Repository, by Decade of Diagnosis*†

Cancer Site 1980-1989 1990-1999 2000-2007 Total
All sites combined 15,034 107,861 18,346 141,241
Brain and other nervous system 257 1,396 182 1,835
Breast 2,107 16,823 3,494 22,424
Cervix Uteri 364 2,269 221 2,854
Colon and Rectum 1,896 13,560 2,587 18,043
Corpus and Uterus, NOS 399 3,433 764 4,596
Esophagus 144 1,103 188 1,435
Kidney and Renal Pelvis 314 2,145 437 2,896
Leukemia 408 2,563 326 3,297
Liver and Intrahepatic Bile Duct 140 1,261 246 1,647
Lung and Bronchus 2,059 14,059 1,942 18,060
Melanoma of the Skin 293 2,371 546 3,210
Myeloma 168 1,166 154 1,488
Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma 539 4,417 748 5,704
Oral Cavity and Pharynx 428 2,619 469 3,516
Ovary 278 1,860 311 2,449
Pancreas 313 2,209 281 2,803
Prostate 1,662 14,570 2,194 18,426
Stomach 470 3,094 580 4,144
Thyroid 225 1,591 420 12,236
**Urinary Bladder 748 4,325 756 5,829
Other 1,822 11,027 1,500 14,349

* Updated October 27, 2010. The Los Angeles estimate is of fully catalogued biospecimens only, approximately one third of tumors in the registry's collection.

† Leading Cancer Sites, based on Incidence and Mortality Data
(Reference: Edwards BK, Ward E, Kohler BA, Eheman C, Zauber AG, Anderson RN, Jemal A, Schymura MJ, Lansdorp-Vogelaar I, Seeff LC, van Ballegooijen M, Goede SL, Anderson R, Ries LAG. Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2006, Featuring Colorectal Cancer Trends and Impact of Interventions (Risk Factors, Screening, and Treatment) to Reduce Future Rates. Cancer. Published online Dec. 7, 2009. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.24760.)

** All sites counts are invasive tumors with the exception of Urinary Bladder which includes In Situ