Human biospecimens are subject to a number of different collection, processing, and storage factors that can significantly alter their molecular composition and consistency. These biospecimen preanalytical factors, in turn, influence experimental outcomes and the ability to reproduce scientific results. Currently, the extent and type of information specific to the biospecimen preanalytical conditions reported in scientific publications and regulatory submissions varies widely. To improve the quality of research utilizing human tissues it is critical that information regarding the handling of biospecimens be reported in a thorough, accurate, and standardized manner. The Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality (BRISQ) recommendations outlined herein are intended to apply to any study in which human biospecimens are used. The purpose of reporting these details is to supply others, from researchers to regulators, with more consistent and standardized information to better evaluate, interpret, compare, and reproduce the experimental results. The BRISQ guidelines are proposed as an important and timely resource tool to strengthen communication and publications around biospecimen-related research and help reassure patient contributors and the advocacy community that the contributions are valued and respected.
Biospecimen quality is affected by a number of preanalytical factors that may or may not be obvious to the investigator. These factors are introduced through multiple biospecimen collection, processing and storage procedures which can differ dramatically within and between medical institutions and biorepositories. Biospecimen Science is the emerging field of study that is attempting to quantify and control such variability. A variety of efforts are under way around the world to establish research programs, evidence-based biospecimen protocols, and standards to improve the overall quality of biospecimens for research.
Biospecimen science; Biospecimen research; Biospecimen; Best practices
Biobanks and biospecimens are critical components for many areas of clinical and basic research. The quality of biospecimens and associated data must be consistent and collected according to standardized methods in order to prevent spurious analytical results that can lead to artifacts being interpreted as valid findings. A number of international institutions have taken the initiative to develop and publish best practices, which include technical recommendations for handling biospecimens as well as recommendations for ethical and regulatory practices in biobanking. These sources of guidance have been useful in raising the overall consistency and quality of research involving biospecimens. However, the lack of international harmonization, uneven adoption, and insufficient oversight of best practices are preventing further improvements in biospecimen quality and coordination among collaborators and biobanking networks. In contrast to the more straightforward technical and management issues, ethical and regulatory practices often involve issues that are more controversial and difficult to standardize.
Detection, quantification, and prognosis of environmental exposures in humans has been vastly enhanced by the ability of epidemiologists to collect biospecimens for toxicologic or other laboratory evaluation. Ease of collection and level of invasiveness are commonly cited reasons why study participants fail to provide biospecimens for research purposes. The use of methodologies for the collection of biospecimens in the home offers promise for improving the validity of health effects linked to environmental exposures while maximizing the number and type of specimens capable of being collected in a timely and cost-effective manner. In this review we examine biospecimens (urine and blood) that have been successfully collected from the home environment. Related issues such as storage and transportation will also be examined as well as promising new approaches for collecting less frequently studied biospecimens (including hair follicles, breast milk, semen, and others). Such biospecimens are useful in the monitoring of reproductive development and function.
Medical research to improve health care faces a major problem in the relatively limited availability of adequately annotated and collected biospecimens. This limitation is creating a growing gap between the pace of scientific advances and successful exploitation of this knowledge. Biobanks are an important conduit for transfer of biospecimens (tissues, blood, body fluids) and related health data to research. They have evolved outside of the historical source of tissue biospecimens, clinical pathology archives. Research biobanks have developed advanced standards, protocols, databases, and mechanisms to interface with researchers seeking biospecimens. However, biobanks are often limited in their capacity and ability to ensure quality in the face of increasing demand. Our strategy to enhance both capacity and quality in research biobanking is to create a new framework that repatriates the activity of biospecimen accrual for biobanks to clinical pathology.
The British Columbia (BC) BioLibrary is a framework to maximize the accrual of high-quality, annotated biospecimens into biobanks. The BC BioLibrary design primarily encompasses: 1) specialized biospecimen collection units embedded within clinical pathology and linked to a biospecimen distribution system that serves biobanks; 2) a systematic process to connect potential donors with biobanks, and to connect biobanks with consented biospecimens; and 3) interdisciplinary governance and oversight informed by public opinion.
The BC BioLibrary has been embraced by biobanking leaders and translational researchers throughout BC, across multiple health authorities, institutions, and disciplines. An initial pilot network of three Biospecimen Collection Units has been successfully established. In addition, two public deliberation events have been held to obtain input from the public on the BioLibrary and on issues including consent, collection of biospecimens and governance.
The BC BioLibrary framework addresses common issues for clinical pathology, biobanking, and translational research across multiple institutions and clinical and research domains. We anticipate that our framework will lead to enhanced biospecimen accrual capacity and quality, reduced competition between biobanks, and a transparent process for donors that enhances public trust in biobanking.
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.
Biospecimens represent a critically important resource in pediatric brain injury research. Data from these specimens can be used to identify and classify injury, understand the molecular mechanisms underlying different types of brain injury, and ultimately identify therapeutic targets to tailor treatments for individual patient needs. To realize the full potential of biospecimens in pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI), standardization and adoption of best practice guidelines are needed to ensure the quality and consistency of specimens. Multiple groups, including the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER), and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), have previously published best practice guidelines for biospecimen resources. Recommendations have also been provided by the Biospecimens and Biomarkers Workgroup of the interagency TBI Common Data Elements (CDE) initiative. The recommendations from all of these sources, however, focus exclusively on adult biospecimen collection. There are no published pediatric-specific biospecimen collection guidelines. An additional workgroup was formed to specifically address this gap. The aim of the Pediatric TBI CDE Biospecimens and Biomarkers Workgroup was to provide recommendations for best practice guidelines to standardize the quality and accessibility of biospecimens for pediatric brain injury research in general, and for pediatric TBI research in particular. Consensus recommendations were developed by review of previously published adult-specific recommendations, including the recommendations of the original TBI Common Data Elements Biospecimens and Biomarkers Workgroup, and by participation in the interagency workshop “Common Data Elements for TBI Research: Pediatric Considerations,” held in Houston, Texas in March of 2010. These recommendations represent expert opinion on this subject. The authors of this article were members of the Biospecimens Workgroup. We hope that with adoption of these best practices, future investigators will be able to obtain biospecimens in a consistent way that meets the needs of pediatric patients, and helps to accelerate acquisition of pediatric-specific biomarker data.
best practices; biomarkers; common data elements; pediatrics; standardization; traumatic brain injury
Pathologists have long served as custodians of human biospecimens collected for diagnostic purposes. Rapid advancements in diagnostic technologies require that pathologists change their practices to optimize patient care. The proper handling of biospecimens creates opportunities for pathologists to improve their diagnoses while assessing prognosis and treatment. In addition, the growing need for high-quality biorepositories represents an opportunity for community pathologists to strengthen their role within the health care team, ensuring that clinical care is not compromised while facilitating research. This article provides a resource to community pathologists learning how to create high-quality biorepositories and participating in emerging opportunities in the biorepository field. While a variety of topics are covered to provide breadth of information, the intent is to facilitate a level of understanding that permits community pathologists to make more informed choices in identifying how best their skills and practice may be augmented to address developments in this field.
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) Central Repository makes data and biospecimens from NIDDK-funded research available to the broader scientific community. It thereby facilitates: the testing of new hypotheses without new data or biospecimen collection; pooling data across several studies to increase statistical power; and informative genetic analyses using the Repository’s well-curated phenotypic data. This article describes the initial database plan for the Repository and its revision using a simpler model. Among the lessons learned were the trade-offs between the complexity of a database design and the costs in time and money of implementation; the importance of integrating consent documents into the basic design; the crucial need for linkage files that associate biospecimen IDs with the masked subject IDs used in deposited data sets; and the importance of standardized procedures to test the integrity data sets prior to distribution. The Repository is currently tracking 111 ongoing NIDDK-funded studies many of which include genotype data, and it houses over 5 million biospecimens of more than 25 types including serum, plasma, stool, urine, DNA, red blood cells, buffy coat and tissue. Repository resources have supported a range of biochemical, clinical, statistical and genetic research (188 external requests for clinical data and 31 for biospecimens have been approved or are pending). Genetic research has included GWAS, validation studies, development of methods to improve statistical power of GWAS and testing of new statistical methods for genetic research. We anticipate that the future impact of the Repository’s resources on biomedical research will be enhanced by (i) cross-listing of Repository biospecimens in additional searchable databases and biobank catalogs; (ii) ongoing deployment of new applications for querying the contents of the Repository; and (iii) increased harmonization of procedures, data collection strategies, questionnaires etc. across both research studies and within the vocabularies used by different repositories.
Database URL: http://www.niddkrepository.org
Biospecimens are recognized as critical components of biomedical research, from basic studies, to clinical trials and epidemiologic investigations. Biorepositories have existed in various forms for over 150 years, from early small collections in pathology laboratories to modern automated facilities managing millions of samples. As collaborative science has developed it has been recognized that biospecimens must be of consistent quality. Recent years have seen a proliferation of best practices and the recognition of the field of “biospecimen science.” The future of this field will depend on the development of more evidence-based practices in both the research and clinical settings. As the field matures, educating a new generation of biospecimen/biobanking scientists will be an important need.
Biospecimen science; Biospecimen research; Biospecimen; Best practices; Biobanking; Biorepository
Personalized medicine promises patient-tailored treatments that enhance patient care and decrease overall treatment costs by focusing on genetics and “-omics” data obtained from patient biospecimens and records to guide therapy choices that generate good clinical outcomes. The approach relies on diagnostic and prognostic use of novel biomarkers discovered through combinations of tissue banking, bioinformatics, and electronic medical records (EMRs). The analytical power of bioinformatic platforms combined with patient clinical data from EMRs can reveal potential biomarkers and clinical phenotypes that allow researchers to develop experimental strategies using selected patient biospecimens stored in tissue banks. For cancer, high-quality biospecimens collected at diagnosis, first relapse, and various treatment stages provide crucial resources for study designs. To enlarge biospecimen collections, patient education regarding the value of specimen donation is vital. One approach for increasing consent is to offer publically available illustrations and game-like engagements demonstrating how wider sample availability facilitates development of novel therapies. The critical value of tissue bank samples, bioinformatics, and EMR in the early stages of the biomarker discovery process for personalized medicine is often overlooked. The data obtained also require cross-disciplinary collaborations to translate experimental results into clinical practice and diagnostic and prognostic use in personalized medicine.
Large multi-center clinical studies often involve the collection and analysis of biological samples. It is necessary to ensure timely, complete and accurate recording of analytical results and associated phenotypic and clinical information. The TRIBE-AKI Consortium http://www.yale.edu/tribeaki supports a network of multiple related studies and sample biorepository, thus allowing researchers to take advantage of a larger specimen collection than they might have at an individual institution.
We describe a biospecimen data management system (BDMS) that supports TRIBE-AKI and is intended for multi-center collaborative clinical studies that involve shipment of biospecimens between sites. This system works in conjunction with a clinical research information system (CRIS) that stores the clinical data associated with the biospecimens, along with other patient-related parameters. Inter-operation between the two systems is mediated by an interactively invoked suite of Web Services, as well as by batch code. We discuss various challenges involved in integration.
Our experience indicates that an approach that emphasizes inter-operability is reasonably optimal in allowing each system to be utilized for the tasks for which it is best suited.
Biospecimen data management; clinical research information systems; multi-center clinical studies; biorepositories
Clinical trial and epidemiological studies need high quality biospecimens from a representative sample of participants to investigate genetic influences on treatment response and disease. Obtaining blood biospecimens presents logistical and financial challenges. As a result, saliva biospecimen collection is becoming more frequent because of the ease of collection and lower cost. This article describes an assessment of saliva biospecimen samples collected through the mail, trial participant demographic and behavioral characteristics, and their association with saliva and DNA quantity and quality.
Saliva biospecimens were collected using the Oragene® DNA Self-Collection Kits from participants in a National Cancer Institute funded smoking cessation trial. Saliva biospecimens from 565 individuals were visually inspected for clarity prior to and after DNA extraction. DNA samples were then quantified by UV absorbance, PicoGreen®, and qPCR. Genotyping was performed on 11 SNPs using TaqMan® SNP assays and two VNTR assays. Univariate, correlation, and analysis of variance analyses were conducted to observe the relationship between saliva sample and participant characteristics.
The biospecimen kit return rate was 58.5% among those invited to participate (n = 967) and 47.1% among all possible COMPASS participants (n = 1202). Significant gender differences were observed with males providing larger saliva volume (4.7 vs. 4.5 ml, p = 0.019), samples that were more likely to be judged as cloudy (39.5% vs. 24.9%, p < 0.001), and samples with greater DNA yield as measured by UV (190.0 vs. 138.5, p = 0.002), but reduced % human DNA content (73.2 vs. 77.6 p = 0.005) than females. Other participant characteristics (age, self-identified ethnicity, baseline cigarettes per day) were associated with saliva clarity. Saliva volume and saliva and DNA clarity were positively correlated with total DNA yield by all three quantification measurements (all r > 0.21, P < 0.001), but negatively correlated with % human DNA content (saliva volume r = -0.148 and all P < 0.010). Genotyping completion rate was not influenced by saliva or DNA clarity.
Findings from this study show that demographic and behavioral characteristics of smoking cessation trial participants have significant associations with saliva and DNA metrics, but not with the performance of TaqMan® SNP or VNTR genotyping assays.
COMPASS; registered as NCT00301145 at clinicaltrials.gov.
Several challenges face the development and operation of a biospecimen bank linked to clinical information, a critical component of any effective translational research program. Melanoma adds particular complexity and difficulty to such an endeavor considering the unique characteristics of this malignancy. We describe here a review of biospecimen bank and our experience in establishing a multi-disciplinary, prospective, integrated clinicopathological-biospecimen database in melanoma. The Interdisciplinary Melanoma Cooperative Group (IMCG), a prospective clinicopathological and biospecimen database, was established at the New York University (NYU) Langone Medical Center. With patients' informed consent, biospecimens from within and outside NYU, clinicopathological data, and follow-up information are collected using developed protocols. Information pertaining to biospecimens is recorded in 35 fields, and clinicopathological information is recorded in 371 fields within 5 modules in a virtual network system. Investigators conducting research utilizing the IMCG biospecimen resource are blind to clinicopathological information, and molecular data generated using biospecimens are linked independently with clinicopathological data by biostatistics investigators. This translational research enterprise acts as a valuable resource to efficiently translate laboratory discoveries to the clinic.
Melanoma; clinical database; specimen bank; translational medicine; model
Tissue banking informatics deals with standardized annotation, collection and storage of biospecimens that can further be shared by researchers. Over the last decade, the Department of Biomedical Informatics (DBMI) at the University of Pittsburgh has developed various tissue banking informatics tools to expedite translational medicine research. In this review, we describe the technical approach and capabilities of these models.
Clinical annotation of biospecimens requires data retrieval from various clinical information systems and the de-identification of the data by an honest broker. Based upon these requirements, DBMI, with its collaborators, has developed both Oracle-based organ-specific data marts and a more generic, model-driven architecture for biorepositories. The organ-specific models are developed utilizing Oracle 188.8.131.52 server tools and software applications and the model-driven architecture is implemented in a J2EE framework.
The organ-specific biorepositories implemented by DBMI include the Cooperative Prostate Cancer Tissue Resource (http://www.cpctr.info/), Pennsylvania Cancer Alliance Bioinformatics Consortium (http://pcabc.upmc.edu/main.cfm), EDRN Colorectal and Pancreatic Neoplasm Database (http://edrn.nci.nih.gov/) and Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) Head and Neck Neoplasm Database (http://spores.nci.nih.gov/current/hn/index.htm). The model-based architecture is represented by the National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank (http://mesotissue.org/). These biorepositories provide thousands of well annotated biospecimens for the researchers that are searchable through query interfaces available via the Internet.
These systems, developed and supported by our institute, serve to form a common platform for cancer research to accelerate progress in clinical and translational research. In addition, they provide a tangible infrastructure and resource for exposing research resources and biospecimen services in collaboration with the clinical anatomic pathology laboratory information system (APLIS) and the cancer registry information systems.
Tissue banking informatics; information models for translational research
We generated extensive transcriptional and proteomic profiles from a Her2-driven mouse model of breast cancer that closely recapitulates human breast cancer. This report makes these data publicly available in raw and processed forms, as a resource to the community. Importantly, we previously made biospecimens from this same mouse model freely available through a sample repository, so researchers can obtain samples to test biological hypotheses without the need of breeding animals and collecting biospecimens.
Twelve datasets are available, encompassing 841 LC-MS/MS experiments (plasma and tissues) and 255 microarray analyses of multiple tissues (thymus, spleen, liver, blood cells, and breast). Cases and controls were rigorously paired to avoid bias.
In total, 18,880 unique peptides were identified (PeptideProphet peptide error rate ≤1%), with 3884 and 1659 non-redundant protein groups identified in plasma and tissue datasets, respectively. Sixty-one of these protein groups overlapped between cancer plasma and cancer tissue.
Conclusions and clinical relevance
These data are of use for advancing our understanding of cancer biology, for software and quality control tool development, investigations of analytical variation in MS/MS data, and selection of proteotypic peptides for MRM-MS. The availability of these datasets will contribute positively to clinical proteomics.
Breast cancer; Her2; mouse; proteome; transcriptome
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
Sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institutes (NHLBI), the Retrovirus Epidemiology Donor Studies (REDS-I and -II) have conducted epidemiological, laboratory and survey research on volunteer blood donors. Some studies request additional permission to store biospecimens in a repository for future studies. Even if minority enrollment goals are achieved, minority participants may decline to participate in biospecimen repositories, potentially reducing the representativeness and applicability of studies performed using repositories.
Study Design and Methods
Demographics of donors consenting to “study only” or “study and repository” participation in the 2007 REDS-II Leukocyte Antibodies Prevalence Study (LAPS) were compared to data from a 1998 REDS-I survey of donor opinion regarding storage and use of biospecimens.
Overall, 91% of LAPS subjects agreed to participate in the repository. Odds of repository participation were lower for subjects who were African American or Hispanic, 35 to 43 years old or had not completed high school. Odds of repository participation were lowest at one geographic location, regardless of other demographics. The 1998 survey of 50,000 blood donors revealed that 97% would approve of long-term storage of biospecimens for blood safety monitoring. Many donors would want notification or permission prior to repository participation.
Minority blood donors are less likely to participate in biospecimen repositories than Caucasians, though other variables also influence participation. The reluctance of minority donors to participate in repositories may result in a reduced number of biospecimens available for study and a decreased ability to definitely answer specific research questions in these populations.
Repository; Participation; Minority
The Early Detection Research Network (EDRN) colorectal and pancreatic neoplasm virtual biorepository is a bioinformatics-driven system that provides high-quality clinicopathology-rich information for clinical biospecimens. This NCI-sponsored EDRN resource supports translational cancer research. The information model of this biorepository is based on three components: (a) development of common data elements (CDE), (b) a robust data entry tool and (c) comprehensive data query tools.
The aim of the EDRN initiative is to develop and sustain a virtual biorepository for support of translational research. High-quality biospecimens were accrued and annotated with pertinent clinical, epidemiologic, molecular and genomic information. A user-friendly annotation tool and query tool was developed for this purpose. The various components of this annotation tool include: CDEs are developed from the College of American Pathologists (CAP) Cancer Checklists and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACR) standards. The CDEs provides semantic and syntactic interoperability of the data sets by describing them in the form of metadata or data descriptor. The data entry tool is a portable and flexible Oracle-based data entry application, which is an easily mastered, web-based tool. The data query tool facilitates investigators to search deidentified information within the warehouse through a “point and click” interface thus enabling only the selected data elements to be essentially copied into a data mart using a dimensional-modeled structure from the warehouse’s relational structure.
The EDRN Colorectal and Pancreatic Neoplasm Virtual Biorepository database contains multimodal datasets that are available to investigators via a web-based query tool. At present, the database holds 2,405 cases and 2,068 tumor accessions. The data disclosure is strictly regulated by user’s authorization. The high-quality and well-characterized biospecimens have been used in different translational science research projects as well as to further various epidemiologic and genomics studies.
The EDRN Colorectal and Pancreatic Neoplasm Virtual Biorepository with a tangible translational biomedical informatics infrastructure facilitates translational research. The data query tool acts as a central source and provides a mechanism for researchers to efficiently query clinically annotated datasets and biospecimens that are pertinent to their research areas. The tool ensures patient health information protection by disclosing only deidentified data with Institutional Review Board and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protocols.
Colorectal and pancreatic neoplasm; tissue banking informatics
Various options exist for collecting biospecimens and biomarkers from cohort study participants, and these have important logistic, resource and scientific implications. Evidence on how different collection methods affect participation and data quality is lacking. This parallel-design randomised trial, the Link-Up Study, involved blood sample donation and other data collection among participants in an existing cohort study, The 45 and Up Study. It aimed to investigate the relation of fasting status, reminder letters and data collection site to response rates, data quality and biospecimen yield.
Individuals aged 45 and over participating in The 45 and Up Study and living ≤20 km from central Wagga Wagga, NSW (regional area) or ≤10 km from central Parramatta, NSW (urban area) (n = 2340) were randomised, stratified by area of residence, to be invited to give a blood sample and additional data by attending either a clinic established specifically for the trial, with an appointment time (“dedicated clinic”, n = 1336) or an existing local commercial pathology centre (n = 1004). Within dedicated clinic groups, participants were randomised into fasting (n = 668) or non-fasting (n = 668) and, at the Parramatta pathology centre site, reminder letter after two weeks (n = 336) or no reminder (n = 334).
Overall, 33% (762/2340) of invitees took part in the Link-Up Study; 41% (410/1002) among regional and 26% (352/1338) among urban-area residents (p < 0.0001). At the dedicated clinics, response rates were 38% (257/668) not fasting and 38% fasting (257/668) (participation rate ratio (RR) = 1.00, 95%CI 0.91-1.08, p = 0.98). The response rate was 22% among individuals randomised to attend the Parramatta pathology centre without a reminder and 23% among those sent a reminder letter (RR = 1.01, 0.93-1.09, p = 0.74). In total, the response rate was 38% (514/1336) at the dedicated clinics and 25% (248/1004) at the pathology centres (RR = 0.67, 0.56-0.78, p < 0.01); measures of height, weight and systolic and diastolic blood pressure did not vary materially between these groups, nor did the median number of aliquots of plasma, buffy coat and red cells collected.
Among cohort study participants, response rates for an additional study involving biospecimen collection, but not data quality or average biospecimen yield, were considerably higher at dedicated clinics than at existing commercial pathology sites.
Biobank; Response rate; Fasting status; Reminder; Biospecimens
Latinos are one of the fastest-growing population groups in the USA, and are underrepresented in scientific research and even more so in genetic research. The disproportionately lower number of certain subpopulations participating in biomedical research has a significant impact on the representativeness of scientific outcomes. We established a collaboration with scientists at a designated National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center to test the feasibility of community-based approaches for engaging Latinos in biospecimen donation for cancer genomic research. A methods triangulation approach was applied to gain a deeper understanding from the community, that included key informant interviews with Latino community leaders (N = 6), four focus groups (N = 22) with members of the Latino community, and the use of an audience response system within the focus groups to capture quantitative data. Overall, the majority of participants had never participated in biospecimen donation; however, despite being unaware of the biobank, they expressed willingness to participate as a way to help advance research. Themes included: Confusion on what biospecimen donation process entails; Barriers to and incentives for participation; Strategies and locations for reaching the Latino community. Clear communication of the “public good” as it relates to biospecimen donation by healthy/non-patient participants is a less clearly conceptualized message; yet, the significance of delivering this message is important to gaining participation and increasing the diversity of samples available for cancer genomic studies from a broader community context.
Latino; Biobank; Biospecimen donation; Community-based; Cancer
Several examples have always illustrated how access to large numbers of biospecimens and associated data plays a pivotal role in the identification of disease genes and the development of pharmaceuticals. Hence, allowing researchers to access to significant numbers of quality samples and data, genetic biobanks are a powerful tool in basic, translational and clinical research into rare diseases. Recently demand for well-annotated and properly-preserved specimens is growing at a high rate, and is expected to grow for years to come. The best effective solution to this issue is to enhance the potentialities of well-managed biobanks by building a network.
Here we report a 5-year experience of the Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks (TNGB), a non-profit association of Italian repositories created in 2008 to form a virtually unique catalogue of biospecimens and associated data, which presently lists more than 750 rare genetic defects. The process of TNGB harmonisation has been mainly achieved through the adoption of a unique, centrally coordinated, IT infrastructure, which has enabled (i) standardisation of all the TNGB procedures and activities; (ii) creation of an updated TNGB online catalogue, based on minimal data set and controlled terminologies; (iii) sample access policy managed via a shared request control panel at web portal. TNGB has been engaged in disseminating information on its services into both scientific/biomedical - national and international - contexts, as well as associations of patients and families. Indeed, during the last 5-years national and international scientists extensively used the TNGB with different purposes resulting in more than 250 scientific publications. In addition, since its inception the TNGB is an associated member of the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure and recently joined the EuroBioBank network. Moreover, the involvement of patients and families, leading to the formalization of various agreements between TNGB and Patients’ Associations, has demonstrated how promoting Biobank services can be instrumental in gaining a critical mass of samples essential for research, as well as, raising awareness, trust and interest of the general public in Biobanks. This article focuses on some fundamental aspects of networking and demonstrates how the translational research benefits from a sustained infrastructure.
Biobanking; Networking; Biological resources centre; IT infrastructure; Biological material; Biospecimens; Cryopreservation; Rare diseases; Patients’ associations
The Kathleen Cuningham Foundation Consortium for Research into Familial Breast Cancer (kConFab) is a multidisciplinary, collaborative framework for the investigation of familial breast cancer. Based in Australia, the primary aim of kConFab is to facilitate high-quality research by amassing a large and comprehensive resource of epidemiological and clinical data with biospecimens from individuals at high risk of breast and/or ovarian cancer, and from their close relatives.
Epidemiological, family history and lifestyle data, as well as biospecimens, are collected from multiple-case breast cancer families ascertained through family cancer clinics in Australia and New Zealand. We used the Tyrer-Cuzick algorithms to assess the prospective risk of breast cancer in women in the kConFab cohort who were unaffected with breast cancer at the time of enrolment in the study.
Of kConFab's first 822 families, 518 families had multiple cases of female breast cancer alone, 239 had cases of female breast and ovarian cancer, 37 had cases of female and male breast cancer, and 14 had both ovarian cancer as well as male and female breast cancer. Data are currently held for 11,422 people and germline DNAs for 7,389. Among the 812 families with at least one germline sample collected, the mean number of germline DNA samples collected per family is nine. Of the 747 families that have undergone some form of mutation screening, 229 (31%) carry a pathogenic or splice-site mutation in BRCA1 or BRCA2. Germline DNAs and data are stored from 773 proven carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA1 mutations. kConFab's fresh tissue bank includes 253 specimens of breast or ovarian tissue – both normal and malignant – including 126 from carriers of BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations.
These kConFab resources are available to researchers anywhere in the world, who may apply to kConFab for biospecimens and data for use in ethically approved, peer-reviewed projects. A high calculated risk from the Tyrer-Cuzick algorithms correlated closely with the subsequent occurrence of breast cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation positive families, but this was less evident in families in which no pathogenic BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation has been detected.
Advances in translational research have led to the need for well characterized biospecimens for research. The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank is an initiative which collects annotated datasets relevant to human mesothelioma to develop an enterprising biospecimen resource to fulfill researchers' need.
The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank architecture is based on three major components: (a) common data elements (based on College of American Pathologists protocol and National North American Association of Central Cancer Registries standards), (b) clinical and epidemiologic data annotation, and (c) data query tools. These tools work interoperably to standardize the entire process of annotation. The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank tool is based upon the caTISSUE Clinical Annotation Engine, developed by the University of Pittsburgh in cooperation with the Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid™ (caBIG™, see ). This application provides a web-based system for annotating, importing and searching mesothelioma cases. The underlying information model is constructed utilizing Unified Modeling Language class diagrams, hierarchical relationships and Enterprise Architect software.
The database provides researchers real-time access to richly annotated specimens and integral information related to mesothelioma. The data disclosed is tightly regulated depending upon users' authorization and depending on the participating institute that is amenable to the local Institutional Review Board and regulation committee reviews.
The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank currently has over 600 annotated cases available for researchers that include paraffin embedded tissues, tissue microarrays, serum and genomic DNA. The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank is a virtual biospecimen registry with robust translational biomedical informatics support to facilitate basic science, clinical, and translational research. Furthermore, it protects patient privacy by disclosing only de-identified datasets to assure that biospecimens can be made accessible to researchers.
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