The answer to successfully treating cancer lies within

Landmark cancer biorepository launched at Baylor Scott & White helps researchers partner with patients to gain a more comprehensive understanding of how their immune system is fighting cancer and may provide an opportunity to develop new immunotherapy treatments.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the public’s interest in the body’s immune system. In the medical community, the study of immunology is leading to some of the most exciting treatments yet found for cancer. Immunotherapy, using one’s own immune system to recognize and fight cancer cells, has emerged as one of the most promising fields in translational cancer research and treatment.

Dr. Ronan Kelly leads the Texas Immuno-Oncology Biorepository project.

Baylor Scott & White Health looks to foster transformational immunology research that can lead to earlier diagnoses and novel immunotherapies through the new Texas Immuno-Oncology Biorepository (TIOB), a project spearheaded by Ronan Kelly, MD, MBA, chief of oncology for the North Texas Division of Baylor Scott & White Health and the W.W. Caruth, Jr. Chair in Immunology at the Baylor Scott & White Research Institute. Launched in September 2020, the TIOB aims to improve our understanding of how our immune system fights cancer by collecting biological samples, including blood, urine, tissue and stool, from actual patients across a range of genomic, racial and social backgrounds. Samples will be collected longitudinally over time, both during treatment and after treatment into long-term follow-up. TIOB is one of the only biorepositories specifically focused on immuno-oncology in the state of Texas and one of the most ambitious cancer research projects in the United States.

“Some patients have a very strong immune response to cancer and, for others, their system is not successfully fighting the cancer,” explained Dr. Kelly. “The TIOB was created to improve our understanding of how an immune system evolves over time to keep up with an ever- changing tumor.” By tracking biomarkers in the bloodstream, researchers can study “tiny little fragments that can break off from a tumor every day,” Dr. Kelly said. Researchers could use this information to discover a patient’s cancer well before it is detectable on advanced imaging studies, which could be transformational for the field of oncology.

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"Everything we know in cancer is driven by the less than 5 percent of patients who are able to participate in clinical trials. There is a great need for more information because we know cancer doesn't discriminate and impacts patients from all backgrounds and ethnicities."

Dr. Ronan Kelly

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Because of Baylor Scott & White’s broad and substantial patient population and excellent clinical research infrastructure, the TIOB aspires to become an important resource for cancer researchers not only within the Baylor Scott & White system, but also for the greater cancer care community in Texas, the U.S. and beyond. The TIOB team has connected with multiple pharmaceutical and biotech companies, academic research centers and medical schools to discuss their potential participation in this project.

“Everything we know in cancer is driven by the less than 5 percent of patients who are able to participate in clinical trials,” Dr. Kelly explained. “There is a great need for more information because we know cancer doesn’t discriminate and impacts patients from all backgrounds and ethnicities. “The TIOB was launched to say to everyone across Texas that you’re going to get quality, advanced treatment at Baylor Scott & White hospitals—but we also want to learn from patients. We don’t see this as a research project, we see this as a partnership with our patients,” Dr. Kelly said, explaining that the TIOB is positioned to help both current and future patients.

As part of Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, the TIOB has access to unique resources, technology and expertise to support its operations. However, a project like this—one that is “generational” in scale—relies on forward-thinking philanthropic support to both exist and expand.

“Philanthropic support is absolutely essential. The timing is perfect to broaden the scope of this chair position,” Dr. Kelly said. “The whole world now knows the importance of our immune system in the fight against disease.

“By giving medications that ‘turn on’ patients’ underlying immune systems, we are seeing people who previously had received news associated with limited one-year survival rates now alive and well at five years with no evidence of disease. Many of these patients can now look forward to long-term survival, but we want this to happen for everyone and we are not there yet. The TIOB is an amazing opportunity for Baylor Scott & White to take that next quantum leap forward in treatment and care for patients battling cancer.”

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For more information on how to support the TIOB, please contact Jordan Castillo, JD at 254-899-3776 or

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