The Virtual Tissue Bank (VTB) is a combined research project of the IMF’s International Myeloma Working Group (IMWG) and Asian Myeloma Network (AMN) with Prof Wee Joo Chng piloting the project for AMN in Singapore at the National University Cancer Institute and Dr. Thomas Martin leading the global effort at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).

The IMF’s Virtual Tissue Bank: What is the scope of the project? 

The basic concept of the VTB is that data will be shared through a web-based portal. Rather than sending samples to a central repository, samples are stored and processed locally. Since there is a natural tendency for each site to retain and process their own samples, the idea of shared data while retaining local ownership of samples is a much more favorable approach.

Using this approach, common protocols for sample collection storage and processing may be possible. By doing this, the tissue acquisition and testing is standardized throughout the collaborating group’s network.

Samples are used for joint studies. Ideally, samples are processed locally using reproducible procedures. Results are combined for pooled analysis. For more complex studies, samples can be sent to a central laboratory for specialized assay and analysis.

Samples That Can Be Stored

Sample Collection Uses
Bone marrow
  • Unsorted/CD138+/CD138-
  • Serum/plasma
  • Cylospin slides
  • Tissue microarray/section (including plasmactyoma)
Genomics, NGS, transcriptions
Study of microenvironment
Liquid biopsy
Germline DNA (Buccal) Association/predisposition studies
Peripheral blood
  • Mononuclear cells
  • Serum/plasma
Clonal haematopoiesis, circulating tumor cells
Liquid biopsy 


The Model illustrates the Roles of a Steering Committee, creation of the Bank itself, as well as individual hospital and cell bank responsibilities.

What are ongoing and planned projects of the IMF’s Virtual Tissue Bank? 

The following are examples of ongoing and planned projects:

1. Extramedullary Disease
Patients with extramedullary disease tend to have treatment resistant high-risk features. Detailed genetic studies are needed to understand the underlying resistance mechanisms. Studies are planned with paired bone marrow samples to assess genetics with Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) techniques and single cell spatial transcriptomics.

2. Single-cell Profiling
In addition, single-cell profiling of both myeloma and immune cells can be conducted linked to treatment with the exciting new immune therapies such as CAR T cells and/or bispecific antibodies.

3.  Germline DNA Studies
Several thousand samples are predicted to be available for DNA analyses which can be conducted from the large number of accumulated samples from the groups.

The VTB project is up and running and we look forward to many productive projects in the coming weeks, months, and years as more and more data sets are accumulated globally.


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