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Researcher Asks Supreme Court for Help

  Legal Business  -   POSTED: 2007/08/20 17:50

A cancer researcher is asking the Supreme Court to block a decision handing ownership of thousands of blood and tissue samples to a university. Dr. William Catalona spearheaded creation of a repository of more than 3,500 prostate tissue samples and 100,000 blood samples during a 27-year career at Washington University in St. Louis.

In 2003, Catalona became director of the Clinical Prostate Cancer Program at Northwestern University in Chicago, asking participants in former research efforts that he oversaw at Washington University if they would consent to transferring their tissue to Northwestern.

Donors of 4,000 tissue samples agreed to the transfer, but Washington University sued to keep the samples there, and won rulings from a U.S. District Court judge and the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

In papers filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, Catalona says he and the research participants could suffer irreparable harm if the appeals court decision is allowed to go into effect.

Washington University could use the tissue in studies the patients would find objectionable, or publish research results in a way that could identify the patients, Catalona's lawyers argued, raising the possibility that participants or their family members might be denied health, life or disability insurance.

In June, Dr. Larry Shapiro, dean of Washington University's School of Medicine, called the appeals court decision a precedent that assures the right of research institutions to use repositories without fear they will be taken or disrupted.

A dozen major research universities, as well as the American Cancer Society and associations of medical colleges and universities, had filed briefs supporting Washington University.

Catalona's lawyers asked Justice Samuel Alito to delay the appeals court decision until the full Supreme Court decides whether it will review the case.


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