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The CTB (Chernobyl Tissue Bank) is a unique venture. It is the first international cooperation that seeks to establish a collection of biological samples from tumours and normal tissues from patients for whom the aetiology of their disease is known - exposure to radioiodine in childhood.

The project, which started in October 1998, has been supported by a number of sponsors including the European Commission, the WHO, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the USA and the Sasakawa Health Foundation of Japan (SHF). The project is currently jointly funded by the NCI and the SHF.

The project is coordinated from Imperial College, London and works with Institutes in the Russian Federation (the Medical Radiological Research Centre in Obninsk) and Ukraine (the Institute of Endocrinology and Metabolism in Kiev) to support local scientists and clinicians to manage and run a tissue bank for those patients who have developed thyroid tumours following exposure to radiation from the Chernobyl accident. Belarus was also initially included in the project, but is currently suspended for political reasons.

The project has the full support of the Governments of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

The large number of thyroid tumours that have occurred in areas exposed to high levels of fallout from the Chernobyl accident raises important problems in the areas of public health, regulation of exposure to radionuclides and in the understanding of the molecular changes involved in their genesis. The over-riding priority must go to matters such as diagnosis, treatment of those affected, and prevention. International Agencies have given and are giving financial and material help in these areas.

However, providing the needs of the patient are not compromised, it is very important to ensure that information that may be of value to the health of future generations is not lost. Although the post Chernobyl thyroid tumours are associated with a particular aetiology, they may also provide clues to the pathogenesis and molecular biology of thyroid carcinoma in general.