GE3LS – Ethical Questions Relating to the Use of Human Tissues and Genetic Information

The Dynactome: Mapping Spatio-Temporal Dynamic Systems in Humans – Integrated GE3LS Research

GE3LS sub-project leader: Kerry Bowman, Mount Sinai Hospital

Project Summary
A key to understanding complex diseases such as cancer lies in investigating the dynamic changes in the cell’s protein interaction networks and signaling cascades.  This project team, led by Drs. Tony Pawson, Jeff Wrana, and Shawn Li, is mapping protein interactions within human cells in order to determine whether diseases such as malignant cancers result not only from specific changes to individual genes and proteins, but also from changes in the entire cellular network.

GE3LS research summary
The GE3LS project team is examining ethical questions relating to the use of human tissues and genetic information, and ensuring confidentiality and protection of research subjects’ privacy. A critical review of consent documents from China, and evaluation of conformity with Canadian laws and guidelines set forth in Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement, Ethical Guidelines for Research involving Humans, as well as international guidelines (e.g., International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects (Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences/World Health Organization) and the Declaration of Helsinki (World Medical Association)) will be performed. Where nonconformities exist, the team will develop and implement an enhanced consent form for future donors to the biobank from which this project obtains its human tissue samples.

In addition, international research guidelines, including those mentioned above, will be assessed with respect to how they address biobanking studies, culminating in a review that details ways that genomics and proteomics researchers can deal with different international research guidelines in this area. The finished product will examine topics such as informed consent, standards for external review, recruitment of participants, and cultural challenges related to consent.  The assessment will uncover where these guidelines are uniform and where they diverge, and highlight problems associated with this in relation to international research, particularly with the ‘Dynactome’ project. We will also study problems that arise when a standard is included on one or more documents but omitted on others.