This article considers some of the ethical and legal issues relating to the ownership and use – including for commercial purposes – of biological material and products derived from humans. The discussion is divided into three parts: after first examining the general notion of ownership, it moves to the particular case of possible commercial use, and finally reflects on the case in point in the light of the preceding considerations. Units of cord blood donated altruistically for transplantation and which are found unsuitable for storage and transplantation, or which become unsuitable while stored in biobanks, are taken as an example. These cord-blood units can be discarded together with other biological waste, or they can be used for research or the development of blood-derived products such as platelet gel. Several ethical questions (eg, informed consent, property, distribution of profits, and others) arise from these circumstances. In this regard, some criteria and limits to use are proposed.
bioethics; biological specimen banks; cord-blood stem cell transplantation; ethics; informed consent; legislation
Background to the debate: Umbilical cord blood—the blood that remains in the placenta after birth—can be collected and stored frozen for years. A well-accepted use of cord blood is as an alternative to bone marrow as a source of hematopoietic stem cells for allogeneic transplantation to siblings or to unrelated recipients; women can donate cord blood for unrelated recipients to public banks. However, private banks are now open that offer expectant parents the option to pay a fee for the chance to store cord blood for possible future use by that same child (autologous transplantation.)
Private banks offer expectant parents the option to pay a fee for the chance to store cord blood for possible future use by the child. The practice is controversial, for scientific and ethical reasons
Biobanks include biological samples and attached databases. Human biobanks occur in research, technological development and medical activities. Population genomics
is highly dependent on the availability of large biobanks. Ethical issues must be
considered: protecting the rights of those people whose samples or data are in
biobanks (information, autonomy, confidentiality, protection of private life), assuring
the non-commercial use of human body elements and the optimal use of samples
and data. They balance other issues, such as protecting the rights of researchers
and companies, allowing long-term use of biobanks while detailed information on
future uses is not available. At the level of populations, the traditional form of
informed consent is challenged. Other dimensions relate to the rights of a group
as such, in addition to individual rights. Conditions of return of results and/or
benefit to a population need to be defined. With ‘large-scale biobanking’ a marked
trend in genomics, new societal dimensions appear, regarding communication, debate,
regulation, societal control and valorization of such large biobanks. Exploring how
genomics can help health sector biobanks to become more rationally constituted
and exploited is an interesting perspective. For example, evaluating how genomic
approaches can help in optimizing haematopoietic stem cell donor registries using
new markers and high-throughput techniques to increase immunogenetic variability
in such registries is a challenge currently being addressed. Ethical issues in such
contexts are important, as not only individual decisions or projects are concerned,
but also national policies in the international arena and organization of democratic
debate about science, medicine and society.
The tissue biobanking of specific biological residual materials, which constitutes a useful resource for medical/scientific research, has raised some ethical issues, such as the need to define which kind of consent is applicable for biological residual materials biobanks.
Biobank research cannot be conducted without considering arguments for obtaining the donors’ consent: in this paper we discuss to what extent consent in biobank research on oncological residual materials has to be required, and what type of consent would be appropriate in this context, considering the ethical principles of donation, solidarity, protection of the donors’ rights and the requirements of scientific progress. Regarding the relationship between informed consent and tissue collection, storage and research, we have focused on two possible choices related to the treatment of data and samples in the biobank: irreversible and reversible anonymization of the samples, distinguishing between biobank research on residual materials for which obtaining consent is necessary and justified, and biobank research for which it is not. The procedures involve different approaches and possible solutions that we will seek to define. The consent for clinical research reported in the Helsinki Declaration regards research involving human beings and for this reason it is subordinate to specific and detailed information on the research projects.
An important ethical aspect in regard to the role of Biobanks is encouraging sample donation. For donors, seeing human samples being kept rather than discarded, and seeing them become useful for research highlights the importance of the human body and improves the attitude towards donation. This process might also facilitate the giving of informed consent more willingly, and with greater trust.
Biobanks; Consent; Oncological residual material; Cancer biobanks; Residual materials biobanks; Informed consent; Ethics; Research; Solidarity
Introduction: Informed, voluntary, and valid consent from biomaterial donors is a precondition for biobank research. Valid consent protects donors’ rights and helps maintain public trust in biobank research. Harmonization of consent procedures in biobank research is needed, because of the widely shared vision on national and international networking of biobanks including data and sample sharing. So far, no study has assessed and compared the content of current consent forms especially for biobank research. The objective of this study was to perform a content analysis of consent forms in German biobanks.
Methods: Based on ten guidelines for biomedical research, we developed an assessment matrix with 41 content issues that are potentially relevant for consent forms in biobank research. This assessment matrix was applied in a thematic text analysis to 30 consent documents of German biobanks identified via the German Biobank Registry in July 2012.
Results: Coverage of the 41 items in the assessed consent forms varied widely. For example, the items “Right to withdraw consent (without disadvantage),” “Policy for genetic information/consent to genetic analyzes” and “International cooperation/transborder use” were addressed in 97, 40, and 23% of all 30 consent forms respectively. The number of items covered by a single consent form ranged from 9 to 36 (22–88% out of 41 items).
Discussion: Our findings serve as a starting point to reflect upon the spectrum of consent issues that must be addressed in biobank research. The findings show that the majority of consent forms for German biobanks, if not all, should be improved and harmonized to better support an informed and balanced choice of potential donors and to facilitate networking of biobanks. Best practice models for consent forms in biobank research should be developed and biobank operators need to be more aware of relevant consent issues.
biobank; tissue bank; broad consent; informed consent; survey; thematic text analysis; research ethics
In the endeavour of biobank research there is dispute concerning what type of consent and which form of donor–biobank relationship meet high ethical standards. Up until now, a ‘broad consent' model has been used in many present-day biobank projects. However it has been, by some scholars, deemed as a pragmatic, and not an acceptable ethical solution. Calls for change have been made on the basis of avoidance of paternalism, intentions to fulfil the principle of autonomy, wish for increased user participation, a questioning of the role of experts and ideas advocating reduction of top–down governance. Recently, an approach termed ‘dynamic consent' has been proposed to meet such challenges. Dynamic consent uses modern communication strategies to inform, involve, offer choices and last but not the least obtain consent for every research projects based on biobank resources. At first glance dynamic consent seems appealing, and we have identified six claims of superiority of this model; claims pertaining to autonomy, information, increased engagement, control, social robustness and reciprocity. However, after closer examination, there seems to be several weaknesses with a dynamic consent approach; among others the risk of inviting people into the therapeutic misconception as well as individualizing the ethical review of research projects. When comparing the two models, broad consent still holds and can be deemed a good ethical solution for longitudinal biobank research. Nevertheless, there is potential for improvement in the broad model, and criticism can be met by adapting some of the modern communication strategies proposed in the dynamic consent approach.
broad consent; dynamic consent; biobank; research participation; ethics
Understanding the perception of patients on research ethics issues related to biobanking is important to enrich ethical discourse and help inform policy.
We examined the views of leukemia patients undergoing treatment in clinics located in the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. An initial written survey was provided to 100 patients (64.1% response rate) followed by a follow-up survey (62.5% response rate) covering the topics of informed consent, withdrawal, anonymity, incidental findings and the return of results, ownership, and trust.
The majority (59.6%) preferred one-time consent, 30.3% desired a tiered consent approach that provides multiple options, and 10.1% preferred re-consent for future research. When asked different questions on re-consent, most (58%) reported that re-consent was a waste of time and money, but 51.7% indicated they would feel respected and involved if asked to re-consent. The majority of patients (62.2%) stated they had a right to withdraw their consent, but many changed their mind in the follow-up survey explaining that they should not have the right to withdraw consent. Nearly all of the patients (98%) desired being informed of incidental health findings and explained that the information was useful. Of these, 67.3% of patients preferred that researchers inform them and their doctors of the results. The majority of patients (62.2%) stated that the research institution owns the samples whereas 19.4% stated that the participants owned their samples. Patients had a great deal of trust in doctors, hospitals and government-funded university researchers, moderate levels of trust for provincial governments and industry-funded university researchers, and low levels of trust towards industry and insurance companies.
Many cancer patients surveyed preferred a one-time consent although others desired some form of control. The majority of participants wanted a continuing right to withdraw consent and nearly all wanted to be informed of incidental findings related to their health. Patients had a great deal of trust in their medical professionals and publically-funded researchers as opposed to profit-based industries and insurance companies.
Biobank; Tissue repository; Cancer patient perspectives; Consent; Withdrawal; Anonymity; Incidental findings; Return of results; Ownership; Trust
The King's College London (KCL) Infectious Diseases BioBank opened in 2007 and collects peripheral venous blood (PVB) from individuals infected with pathogens including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). PVBs are fractionated into plasmas, lymphocytes and DNA and are then frozen. All donations are from subjects who have given 'open consent' so samples can be used for virtually any type of biomedical research. The HIV component of the BioBank contains samples from over 400 donations from 138 HIV+ patients. Thus, the KCL Infectious Diseases BioBank - together with establishments such as the Spanish HIV BioBank - is likely to expedite translational research into this infection.
Although much has been published for the development of cell lines, these were lab based and developed for scientific technical staff.
Objective of review
We discuss the ethical implications of tissue retention and present a generic consent form (Part II). We also present a simple and successful protocol for the development of cell lines and tissue harvesting for the clinical scientist (Part I).
Consent is also more proximate and assurance can be given of appropriate usage. Ethical questions concerning tissue ownership are in many institutions raised during the current consenting procedure. We provide a robust ethical framework, based on the current legislation, which allows clinicians to be directly involved in cell and tissue harvesting.
The Friuli Venezia Giulia (FVG), a region of North Eastern Italy, has passed legislation (Decree No 2324/2010) to regulate the banking of umbilical cord blood samples for personal, autologous, or family-directed use, and to implement the Agreement of the State-Regions Permanent Conference (Decree No 62/CSR/2010). This paper aims to identify the formalities and the reasons why families collect and bank their cord blood in foreign banks for both personal and private use.
To this end, at the Institute for Maternal and Child Health of Trieste (the regional capital city of the FVG), Italy, which assists about 1800 pregnant women a year, 129 questionnaires, drafted from January 2010 to December 2011 and concerning the granting of authorization to export samples, were examined.
The collected data showed that 75% of involved families had resorted to anonymous public collection, which is available to anyone with therapeutic needs, and provided compatibility and hematologic protocols recognized by the scientific and international community (main indications: leukemia, hemoglobinopaties, and inherited hematologic and immunologic disorders). Conversely, 25.0% requested private storage at a foreign bank for personal or family-dedicated use. The principal motivation by disease was for treatment for diabetes (22.4%) and celiac disease (19.7%) (a multiorgan disease for which the FVG region has provided safeguards by approving a specific law granting support to families; Decree No 561/2007). For these two types of disease we found that information was received from the internet and not from general medical physicians, with a significant difference found using the χ2 test (P < 0.01).
The indication of treating these diseases with cord blood stem cell transplantation appears to be well grounded and encouraging, and has recently been corroborated by the international literature; however, the economic and social motivations promoting cord blood storage, for a fee, in the event of diseases that are still under study, require accurate information through general medical physicians on the actual possibilities of treatment.
autologous cord blood harvesting; North Eastern Italy; emerging hopes of therapy
This paper explores the perspectives of women who have agreed that their umbilical cord blood may be collected for a public ‘cord blood bank’, for use in transplant medicine or research. Drawing on interview data from 27 mothers who agreed to the collection and use of their umbilical cord blood, these choices and the informed consent process are explored. It is shown that the needs of sick children requiring transplants are prominent in narrative accounts of cord blood banking, together with high expectations for future applications of stem cells. Given this dynamic, a concern arises that the complex and multiple uses of tissues and related data might be oversimplified in the consent process. In conclusion, the positive finding of a commitment to mutuality in cord blood banking among these women is underlined, and its implications for the wider debate on cord blood banking are discussed.
Private cord blood banks are for-profit companies that facilitate storage of umbilical cord blood for personal or family use. Pediatric hematopoietic cell transplantation (HCT) physicians are currently best situated to use cord blood therapeutically. We sought to describe the experiences and views of these physicians regarding private cord blood banking.
Participants and Methods
Emailed cross-sectional survey of pediatric HCT physicians in the United States and Canada. 93/152 potentially eligible physicians (93/130 confirmed survey recipients) from 57 centers responded. Questions addressed the number of transplants performed using privately banked cord blood, willingness to use banked autologous cord blood in specific clinical settings, and recommendations to parents regarding private cord blood banking.
Respondents reported having performed 9 autologous and 41 allogeneic transplants using privately banked cord blood. In 36/40 allogeneic cases for which data were available, the cord blood had been collected because of a known indication in the recipient. Few respondents would choose autologous cord blood over alternative stem cell sources for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in second remission. In contrast, 55% would choose autologous cord blood to treat high-risk neuroblastoma, or to treat severe aplastic anemia in the absence of an available sibling donor. No respondent would recommend private cord blood banking for a newborn with one healthy sibling when both parents were of Northern European descent; 11% would recommend banking when parents were of different minority ethnicities.
Few transplants have been performed using cord blood stored in the absence of a known indication in the recipient. Willingness to use banked autologous cord blood varies depending on disease and availability of alternative stem cell sources. Few pediatric HCT physicians endorse private cord blood banking in the absence of an identified recipient, even for mixed-ethnicity children for whom finding a suitably matched unrelated donor may be difficult.
Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation; Cord Blood Stem Cell Transplantation; Bioethics
Since the first successful transplantation of umbilical cord blood in 1988, cord blood has become an important source of hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells for the treatment of blood and genetic disorders. Significant progress has been accompanied by challenges for scientists, ethicists, and health policy makers. With the recent recognition of the need for a national system for the collection, banking, distribution, and use of cord blood and the increasing focus on cord blood as an alternative to embryos as a source of tissue for regenerative medicine, cord blood has garnered significant attention. We review the development of cord blood banking and transplantation and then discuss the scientific and ethical issues influencing both established and investigational practices surrounding cord blood collection, banking, and use.
In northeastern Italy, according to Italian legislation, authorized public facilities can accept the donation and preservation of cord blood stem cells (CB-SC). Attitudes and knowledge in pregnant women differs between the local and immigrant (non-European Union [EU]) population. In this study we assessed the choices that pregnant women have with respect to the public and private harvesting system and the main reasons driving their decisions. We examined the ethnic origin of the families and compared tests for syphilis screening and leukocyte (WBC) counts in the CB-SC bags that are required for validation of the collection.
Out of a population of 3450 pregnant patients at the Institute for Maternal and Child Health of Trieste, northeast Italy, 772 women agreed to cord blood harvesting and the associated lab tests. Of these, 221 women (28.6%) were from immigrant families of non-EU countries. Their ethnic affiliation was recorded, and tests were performed for syphilis screening and for nucleated red blood cell (NRBC) interference with the WBC count in CB-SC bags to assess cellularity and to determine if storage was appropriate.
Of the 772 pregnant women, 648 (84.0%) accessed the public collection system, which is free of charge, and 124 (15.0%) accessed the private fee-based system. One woman from the non-EU group opted for the private fee-based system. Of the 3450 pregnant women screened for syphilis at the Institute for Maternal and Child Health, the Treponema pallidum hemagglutination (TPHA) and Venereal Disease Research Laboratory (VDRL) tests were the main tests performed (66.0% of total cases) because many gynecologists in the public harvesting system apply the Italian regulations of the 1988 Decree, while the private system requires tests on syphilis and leaves the option to the lab physicians to select the best determination method. We found that the chemiluminescence method was more specific (97.0%) than the TPHA (83.0%) and nontreponemal rapid plasma reagin VDRL (75.0%) tests (P < 0.05, χ2 test). The specificity link between the two automatic methods versus microscopes for WBC dosing and NRBC interference was r2 = 0.08 (ADVIA 120) and r2 = 0.94 (XE-2100). The public system does not include human T-cell lymphotropic virus testing; this is reserved for the population from endemic zones.
In northeastern Italy current legislation prevents the establishment of private fee-based banks for storage of CB-SC. The cryopreservation, for future autologous personal or family use, is possible only by sending to foreign private banks, with a further fee of €300. These regulations confirm that Italian legislation tries to increase the anonymous allogenic donations and the number of CB-CS bags stored in the free-cost public system, that are available to anyone with therapeutic needs. Private banking is used almost exclusively by the wealthier local population. In the public system, many physicians continue to use older Italian laws regarding syphilis diagnosis, and NRBC interference on WBC count may have an impact on cord blood harvesting. Our findings suggest that in the EU there is no consensus policy on donor management. The value of storage for potential use within the family is useful only with collaboration between the public and the private systems.
cord blood collection; public system; private system; pregnant women’s choice
The dynamic development of biobanks causes some ethical, social, and legal problems. The most discussed problems are obtaining informed consent, especially for future research, from minors and from deceased people. The aim of this article is to present the current standards held by Polish biobanks concerning obtaining a participant's informed consent in some aspects.
Material and methods
Survey was carried out by anonymous questionnaire among 59 institutions which deal with the collecting and storage of human cells and tissues in the year 2008. Twenty four filled-in copies of the questionnaires were sent back (return=41%).
Almost every institution (92%) obtains written consent, but a third of the surveyed institutions (29%) do not obtain consent for the future use of the samples. The majority of the respondents (83%) support the idea of using biological materials for research purposes of a donor who died if he did not leave any written objection to such practices and 46% of respondents stated that biobanks should obtain the consent from the already mature donor who gave their samples as a child.
The practice and rules for obtaining informed consent for the scientific research require improvement. The possibility to use the human materials in the future, conditions for getting access to the data, the possibility of their withdrawal from the database and using the materials and data after the death of the donor should be clearly determined when the informed consent to collect the material is obtained.
biobanks; research ethics; informed consent; genetic collection; management
Umbilical cord blood is a potential vast source of primitive hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells available for clinical application to reconstitute the hematopoietic system and/or restore immunological function in affected individuals requiring treatment. Cord blood can be used as an alternative source for bone marrow transplantation and its use is developing into a new field of treatment for pediatric and adult patients presenting with hematological disorders, immunological defects and specific genetic diseases.
More than 25,000 allogeneic cord blood transplantations have been performed worldwide since the first cord blood transplantation in 1988. There are two banking options for storing umbilical cord blood [private (family) and public]. Cord blood stored in private banks are used for either autologous or allogeneic transplants for the infant donor or related family members but private cord blood banks are not searchable or available to the public. More than 780,000 cord blood units are stored in over 130 private cord blood banks, worldwide, and over 400,000 units in more than 100 quality controlled public cord blood banks.
Researchers continue to evaluate the usefulness of cord blood cells in treating human diseases or disorders for purposes other than hematological disorders including heart disease, strokes, brain or spinal cord injuries and cancer. This review summarizes the status of umbilical cord blood banking, its history and current and potential use in the treatment of human disease.
Umbilical cord blood; Public and private cord blood banks; Transplantation; Clinical applications; Regenerative medicine
Cancer innovations, such as biobanking technologies, are continuously evolving to improve our understanding and knowledge about cancer prevention and treatment modalities. However, the public receives little communication about biobanking and is often unaware about this innovation until asked to donate biospecimens. It is the researchers’ ethical duty to provide clear communications about biobanking and biospecimen research. Such information allows the public to understand biobanking processes and facilitates informed decision making about biospecimen donation. The aims of this paper are 1) to examine the importance of clear communication as an ethical imperative when conveying information about cancer innovations and 2) to illustrate the use of an organizing framework, the CLEAN (Culture, Literacy, Education, Assessment, and Networking) Look approach for creating educational priming materials about the topic of biobanking.
Biobanking; health communication; ethics
The development of genomics has dramatically expanded the scope of genetic research, and collections of genetic biosamples have proliferated in countries with active genomics research programs. In this essay, we consider a particular kind of collection, national biobanks. National biobanks are often presented by advocates as an economic “resource” that will be used by both basic researchers and academic biologists, as well as by pharmaceutical diagnostic and clinical genomics companies. Although national biobanks have been the subject of intense interest in recent social science literature, most prior work on this topic focuses either on bioethical issues related to biobanks, such as the question of informed consent, or on the possibilities for scientific citizenship that they make possible. We emphasize, by contrast, the economic aspect of biobanks, focusing specifically on the way in which national biobanks create biovalue. Our emphasis on the economic aspect of biobanks allows us to recognize the importance of what we call clinical labor—that is, the regularized, embodied work that members of the national population are expected to perform in their role as biobank participants—in the creation of biovalue through biobanks. Moreover, it allows us to understand how the technical way in which national biobanks link clinical labor to databases alters both medical and popular understandings of risk for common diseases and conditions.
biobank; clinical labor; database; risk; biovalue
Population-based biobanks are a critical resource for genetic research. It is important to know what potential participants understand about the risks and benefits of providing samples in order to ensure adequate informed consent. Kaiser Permanente Colorado (KPCO) is currently planning a biobank where adult members would be asked to contribute an additional tube of blood during a routine blood draw. Adult KPCO members in clinic waiting rooms were asked to read an informational brochure and informed consent form. Respondents then completed a survey to evaluate their understanding of the materials, willingness to provide a blood sample to a biobank, and facilitators and barriers to participation. Two hundred three members participated in the survey, of whom 69 % indicated willingness to contribute to a biobank. Nearly all understood that they would not be paid for any products resulting from the use of their blood and would not receive results from their samples (91 and 84 %, respectively). Seventy-four percent would donate a sample because, “it is important to contribute to research,” and over half the participants (56 %) said they had no concerns about contributing to a biobank. Of those with concerns, 35 % said information security was a reason. In multivariate models, older age and trust in KPCO were significant predictors of willingness to participate (p = 0.03 and p < 0.0001, respectively). Data from this survey indicate an overall willingness to participate in a biobank, provide possible barriers to participation, and identify ways to improve informational materials to ensure adequate informed consent.
Biobanks; Genetics; Public attitudes; Participation; Understanding; Consent
This paper presents the results of an exploratory qualitative study that assesses Canadian pediatric researchers’ perceptions of a pre-selected group of ethical issues raised by pharmacogenomics research with children.
As a pilot study, we conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with Canadian pediatric pharmacogenomic researchers. The interviews were guided by the following themes: (1) benefits and risks of inclusion, (2) the consent/assent process, and (3) the return of research results.
Issues about assent, consent, risks and benefits, as well as the communication of results were addressed by the respondents. Some issues, such as the unique vulnerability of children, the long term privacy concerns associated with biobanking, additional core elements that need to be discussed and included in the consent/assent forms, as well as the challenges of communicating research results in a pediatric research were not explicitly identified by the respondents.
Further consideration should be given to address the ethical challenges of including children in pharmacogenomics research. This exploratory study indicates that further guidance is needed if children are to be protected and yet benefit from such research.
Ethical; Health professionals; Pediatric; Perceptions; Pharmacogenomics; Research; Social
The pursuit of genomic research and biobanking has raised concerns and discussions about the ethical and legal implications. Given the specific challenges that surround such enterprise in low and middle income countries, it is pertinent to examine them in the light of the advent of Biobanking and Genomic research in Nigeria. In this paper I discuss the issues and suggest model solutions derived from advanced jurisdictions. These ethical and legal issues are discussed within the context of the legal system of a typical African country whose jurisprudence derives from that of its erstwhile colonial master, the United Kingdom. This includes issues relating to law and human rights, informed consent, native and customary law.
Biobanking; Genomic; Research; Nigeria; Law
Biobank research has been the focus of great interest of scholars and regulatory bodies who have addressed different ethical issues. On the basis of a review of the literature it may be concluded that, regarding some major themes in this discussion, a consensus seems to emerge on the international scene after the regular exchange of arguments in scientific journals. Broad or general consent is emerging as the generally preferred solution for biobank studies and straightforward instructions for coding will optimise privacy while facilitating research that may result in new methods for the prevention of disease and for medical treatment. The difficult question regarding the return of information to research subjects is the focus of the current research, but a helpful analysis of some of the issues at stake and concrete recommendations have recently been suggested.
informed consent; privacy; incidental findings; public trust; ethics; biobanks
The rapid emergence of large-scale genetic databases raises issues at the nexus of medical law and ethics, as well as the need, at both national and international levels, for an appropriate and effective framework for their governance. This is even more so for retrospective access to data for secondary uses, wherein the original consent did not foresee such use. The first part of this paper provides a brief historical overview of the ethical and legal frameworks governing consent issues in biobanking generally, before turning to the secondary use of retrospective data in epidemiological biobanks. Such use raises particularly complex issues when (1) the original consent provided is restricted; (2) the minor research subject reaches legal age; (3) the research subject dies; or (4) samples and data were obtained during medical care. Our analysis demonstrates the inconclusive, and even contradictory, nature of guidelines and confirms the current lack of compatible regulations. The second part of this paper uses the European Network for Genetic and Genomic Epidemiology (ENGAGE Consortium) as a case study to illustrate the challenges of research using previously collected data sets in Europe. Our study of 52 ENGAGE consent forms and information documents shows that a broad range of mechanisms were developed to enable secondary use of the data that are part of the ENGAGE Consortium.
Preparing healthy community members with timely communications prior to engaging them in a request to donate biospecimens promises to improve the experience of biobanking participation. To this end, a qualitative study was conducted to assess community member knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and informational needs about cancer-related biospecimen collection in a large metropolitan area in southwest Florida. The study utilized purposive sampling techniques to recruit a total of 95 participants to participate in 12 focus groups, segmented by race/ethnicity and language preference (mixed race, African American only, and Spanish speaking) and age (18–29, 30–54, and 55 and older). Focus group interviews were analyzed using content analysis to identify emergent themes. Overall, participants in the 30 years and older groups were favorable toward participating in biobanking if their concerns were addressed, such as confidentiality and consent issues, in contrast to participants aged 18–29 who were more skeptical. For all participants, the desire to participate in research that seeks new cancer treatments outweighed mistrust. Moreover, many cited the potential scientific benefit for future generations as a primary motivator. Finally, in some groups a therapeutic misconception was expressed, where participants expressed a willingness to forego confidentiality of their health status in exchange for therapeutic benefit. This study contributes to the literature on community perceptions of the benefits and barriers of biobanking and adds to the development of meaningful education communication priming tools to advance understandings about biobanking.
Biobanking; Biospecimens; Tissue Donor; Focus Group; Informed Consent; Ethics
Human biological specimens (biospecimens) are increasingly important for research that aims to advance human health. Yet, despite significant proliferation in specimen-based research and discoveries during the past decade, researchremains challenged by the inequitable access to high quality biospecimens that are collected under rigorous ethical standards. This is primarily caused by the complex level of control and ownership exerted by the myriad of stakeholders involved in the biospecimen research process. This article discusses the ethical model of custodianship as a framework for biospecimen-based research to promote fair research access and resolve issues of control and potential conflicts between biobanks**, investigators, human research participants (human subjects), and sponsors. Custodianship is the caretaking obligation for biospecimens from initial collection to final dissemination of research findings. It endorses key practices and operating principles for responsible oversight of biospecimens collected for research. Embracing the custodial model would ensure transparency in research, fairness to human research participants, and shared accountability among all stakeholders involved in biospecimen-based research.