Keeping Track of Leukemia Specimens

Over seven years ago, I was asked to create a system to help scientists keep track of specimens at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where I work. The system I created, the AML Specimen Bank, is still used today by researchers studying an often fatal type of leukemia in children called acute myeloid leukemia or AML.

amlBack seven years ago, Dr Soheil Meshinchi, a pediatric oncologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital, came to me asking for help in replacing an aging system they were using to keep track of the specimens they collected for the AML registry they maintained. The original system, a desktop program written in Visual Basic on top of Microsoft Access, had a number of problems. After evaluating the system, I decided to rewrite it in ASP.NET Web Forms, C#, and SQL Server.

amldbThe system lets scientists collect information about the patient who supplied the sample, about the type of specimen collected (blood, tissue, etc.), and where the samples are stored (freezer name, stack, level, and location within the box). AML researchers use the system to store samples, maintain related data, manage the freezers that store the samples, and locate and check out samples for use in their research.

It’s nice to know that seven years later, Dr Meshinchi and his colleagues are still using the system to keep track of the AML sample repository. In fact, the system we first created seven years ago works so well that it has been Cancer-of-the-Bloodcloned and reworked for four other sample repositories for other types of cancers. We are currently in the process of creating a brand new edition of the system for a more comprehensive leukemia repository that we are building using .NET 4.5 and ASP.NET MVC.

I am very lucky to have found a job that blends my programming aptitude with my love of science, research, and improving the lives of others.


I’m riding in Obliteride to help raise money for the life-saving research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where I work. Please consider donating to my ride to end cancer.

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