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Dr. Brent Schacter

Dr. Brent Schacter inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences-Recognized for work in field of biobanking

by Rhonda Spivak, October 6, 2020

Cancer specialist Dr. Brent Schacter has been recognized for his groundbreaking work in the field of biobanking and he has been inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) for his monumental accomplishments in the fields of cancer and blood disorder research and the relatively new field of biobanking.
Schacter, who is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Max Rady College of Medicine of the University of Manitoba, and member of the Department of Medical Oncology and Hematology at CancerCare Manitoba, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that it is very gratifying to be inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS).  "CAHS is an honor society of health sciences academics in Canada ( doctors, nurses, pharmacists etc.) to which I have been elected. I was elated to receive this honor from my peers. CAHS does prepare policy statements and white papers on important subjects in health care and research in Canada, and this might enable me to engage in some of those discussions and initiatives." 
Schacter, who is a former president and CEO of CancerCare Manitoba, explains that " Biobanks are curated collections of biological materials that are stored under controlled conditions for use in biomedical research or for other purposes. The largest application is for human biomedical research, and usually involves the collection and storage of tumor or normal tissues for future research purposes. Similar collections of animal tissues also occur. The field extends into collection of sperm and ova for the purpose of preserving species by bio-preservation, the storage of seeds for similar bio-preservation purposes, and collection and storage of microorganisms for research purposes. There are also museum collections that can be included."
Schacter notes that the collection of human bio-specimens for medical research has expanded quickly in the last 15-20 years, because it offers an opportunity to explore the effects of the molecular composition of normal and cancerous tissues in causing and preventing disease. "As the human genome is now well characterized, the collection, preservation and utilization of these materials for molecular biology focused research has advanced our knowledge of the control mechanisms in human biology, how they are subverted by cancer, and how these processes may be regulated to suppress the expression of cancer, for example. This has led to remarkable advances in our understanding of how cancer progresses, but more important, developing the means to control and remove it. Moreover, our understanding of these molecular processes has advanced the field of biomarkers, which can be utilized as early markers of cancer and other diseases, enabling early intervention to prevent problems," Schacter says. He adds that, "The bio-preservation of ova, sperm and seeds is meant to help preserve and ultimately expand biodiversity in nature."
Schacter emphasizes that "All of this must be done with careful quality control to ensure that the materials that are stored and later utilized for research are not degraded by the processes of preservation and utilization. Moreover, in the case of samples taken from living donors, informed consent is necessary to ensure the donor understands how the preserved tissue may be used for research purposes."
While Schacter was the Principal Investigator of the Canadian Tumour Repository Network (CTRNet), he launched a certification program that changed operating practices for biobanks. As Schacter explains "CTRNet created standard operating procedures and policies that have been adopted by biobanks in Canada and throughout the world to establish and enhance quality biobanking practices. We also created an education and certification program for biobanks to certify quality practice that has also been widely adopted, including through a program of IARC ( International Agency for Research in Cancer, a branch of WHO) in low and middle income countries, primarily in Africa and Asia."
Additionally, Schacter is  on an ISO (International Organization for Standardization) technical committee writing group that wrote the first international standard for biobanking. "I've since been involved in creating two more global standards through ISO," he says. He notes that " ISO is a global organization with its head office in Berlin/Geneva that creates Standards for processes and products that are followed around the world. Everything from cement to playground equipment to biobanks. You will often see organizations that state  something like 'certified to ISO 9001' for example."
Further as Schacter adds, " I chair an ISBER (International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories) Steering Committee which has facilitated the development and implementation of an online examination for biobank professionals, to certify their competency in biobanking practice. This examination is called the Qualification in Biorepository Science (QBRS) and is being administered jointly with the American Society of Clinical Pathology Board of Certification ( ASCP BOC). This is the first such examination ever developed in the world." 
Schacter points out that "All of these initiatives are focused on creating quality in biobanking, which is essential for quality biomedical research."
When asked why is it important to require standardized methods in the field of biobanking, Schacter responds, "It is important to ensure quality in biomedical research. Otherwise, the results of that research may not be verifiable and valid. It ensures that funds spent on research are well and properly utilized."
It should be noted that Schacter was a member of the Board of ISBER (the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories) for eight years and served as its President for 2016/17. Recently, Schacter was honoured with the ISBER Special Services Award for 2020 for his  leadership role in the development of the QBRS Examination for biobanking professionals. He reports," I received the award in May of this year. It is a very lovely glass engraved plaque. I was sincerely honored to be chosen by my peers for this award, in recognition of my work over the past five years to lead the QBRS initiative to successful completion and implementation."
Schacter is also a Member of the Council ( Board) of the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). He states, "It is a federal crown agency that facilitates the development of Standards in Canada, serves to assist about 14 different standards creating organizations in Canada, and also oversees accreditation and certification bodies in Canada. In that context it has been determined that standardization of products and processes in Canada enhances innovation and productivity, is responsible for facilitating inter-provincial and international trade, and accounts for about 10% of Canada's GDP."
In an article in UM Today Dr. Digvir Jayas, vice-president (research and international) and Distinguished Professor at the University of Manitoba is quoted in reference to Dr. Schacter being inducted as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS). He says "Dr. Schacter is a superb clinician-scientist who deserves this prestigious honour for his life’s work and dedication to advancing biomedical research. His career is marked by so many groundbreaking ideas that challenged the global community to think and act differently. It is an admirable legacy, yet I’m sure he’s not even done as he continues to advance research ideas as  professor emeritus.” 
The article in UM Today notes that Schacter was "Co-Chair of the Canadian Task Force on Adolescents and Young Adults (AYA) With Cancer from 2008-2016. The AYA Task Force created recommendations for care of AYA cancer patients in Canada in an initiative directed by Dr. Schacter and contributed to the development of a Diploma Program for qualification in AYA Oncology for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada."
Dr. Schacter has received many distinguished awards/honours, such as the Certificate of Recognition, Minister of Health, Canada (2006); Award for Excellence in Medicine and Health, Canadian Cancer Society (2010); and the Distinguished Service Award from Doctors Manitoba (2013).
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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