Last updated on April 2020

Rapid Autopsy and Procurement of Cancer Tissue

Brief description of study

  • Individuals with cancer of the lung, chest cavity or bladder, as well as patients who have been treated with adoptive cell therapy unfortunately commonly succumb to their disease. Some agree to donate their bodies to cancer research that may help the medical community better understand these diseases. Studies of cancer tumor tissue obtained soon after death may be used to answer questions about the origins, progression, and treatment of cancer. Researchers want to conduct a study that involves planned collection of cancer tumor tissue shortly after death. To do so, they will arrange to provide inpatient hospice care for people with non-small cell lung cancer, bladder cancer or patients who have been treated with adoptive cell therapy.


  • To collect cancer tissue biopsy samples as soon as possible after death.
  • Individuals who have cancer of the lung, chest cavity or bladder, or those who have been treated with adoptive cell therapy and are planning to receive end-of-life hospice care are eligible to participate.
  • Participants will agree to receive inpatient hospice care at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Full details on end-of-life care preference will be acknowledged.
  • An autopsy will be performed at the clinical center within 3 hours of death. Tumor tissue will be collected from the primary site of cancer and from any areas of the body to which the cancer has spread.
  • Participants will not receive further cancer treatments as part of this study. This is a tissue collection study only.

Detailed Study Description

  • Despite being the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide, there is only limited knowledge of tumor heterogeneity in lung cancer. There is also limited knowledge of tumor heterogeneity of other less common thoracic malignancies, such as thymic epithelial tumors and mesothelioma. The extent and causes of intra-tumor and inter-metastatic heterogeneity in thoracic malignancies and how they compare to other tumor types is of utmost importance in managing lung cancer. Newer approaches of treating malignancies by targeting immune cells or tumor microenvironment are emerging. Adoptive cellular therapy (ACT) is one such approach. How this therapy affects individual metastatic sites and specific clones of tumor cells is poorly understood.
  • Little is known about the clonal architecture of advanced, heavily-treated urothelial carcinoma or the dynamics that lead to metastasis and chemotherapy and immunotherapy resistance. Urothelial carcinomas have a high somatic mutation rate (median 5.5 per megabase) similar to that of non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma. Urothelial carcinoma tumors are extremely heterogenous and the extent of heterogeneity post treatment is an important area of research that should be further explored. Understanding the genetic and clonal evolution of urothelial carcinoma tumors will eventually help guide management of treatment-resistant metastatic tumors. Comprehensive tissue procurement by rapid autopsy will serve as a valuable mechanism to further characterize aggressive treatment-resistant, metastatic urothelial carcinomas and other rare genitourinary histologies.
  • Tumor heterogeneity can be evaluated in a comprehensive manner by deep sequencing and globally analyzing genomic and proteomic alterations of simultaneous core biopsies from several areas of the primary tumor and metastases. These analyses correlated with clinical outcomes can further the evaluation of tumor heterogeneity. However, such studies are not feasible in a clinical setting.
  • Tissue procurement by rapid autopsies provides an effective way for such an investigation.
  • Clonal evolution and selection of tumor cells can be assessed by examining genomic and proteomic alterations of tumor samples obtained from multiple sites of primary and metastatic sites.
  • Procure primary and metastatic tissue of thoracic malignancies, bladder cancer and from patients treated with an ACT shortly after death, to investigate tumor heterogeneity and immune microenvironment intratumorally, between paired primary and metastatic sites, and among inter-metastatic tumors using integrated genomic and proteomic analysis.
  • Adult patients with metastatic non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), small cell lung cancer (SCLC), extrapulmonary small cell cancer (ESCC), pulmonary neuroendocrine tumor (pNET), thymic epithelial tumor, mesothelioma, bladder cancer (including urothelial carcinoma and other rare bladder or kidney histology) and patients treated with an ACT, with no expected chance of cure and an expected survival of less than 3 months.
  • Forty patients with NSCLC; 30 each with SCLC, thymic epithelial tumors, and mesothelioma; 6 each of ESCC and pNET; 20 patients with bladder cancer; and 20 patients treated with an ACT will be autopsied in this study.
  • Patients will be admitted for inpatient hospice when an investigator evaluates that death is clinically imminent.
  • Upon expiration, rapid autopsy will be performed and tissue will be obtained from the primary tumor site, if identifiable, and multiple metastatic sites to assess tumor heterogeneity and immune microenvironment using deep sequencing and global genomic and proteomic analyses.
  • Archival tissue from patients, if available, will be used to evaluate these changes from several stages of tumor progression.

Clinical Study Identifier: NCT01851395

Find a site near you

Start Over

Recruitment Status: Open

Brief Description Eligibility Contact Research Team

Volunteer Sign-up

Sign up for our FREE service to receive email notifications when clinical trials are posted in the medical category of interest to you.