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1.  Biospecimen Reporting for Improved Study Quality (BRISQ) 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(8):3429-3438.
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.
PMCID: PMC3169291  PMID: 21574648
2.  Evolutionary concepts in biobanking - the BC BioLibrary 
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.
PMCID: PMC2785772  PMID: 19909513
3.  The NIDDK Central Repository at 8 years—Ambition, Revision, Use and Impact 
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:
PMCID: PMC3243603  PMID: 21959867
4.  Opening of the National Biobank of Korea as the Infrastructure of Future Biomedical Science in Korea 
On April 26, 2012, the Korea National Institute of Health officially held the opening ceremony of newly dedicated biobank building, ‘NationalBiobank of Korea’. The stocked biospecimens and related information have been distributed for medical and public health researches. The Korea Biobank Project, which was initiated in 2008, constructed the Korea Biobank Network consisting of the National Biobank of Korea (NBK) with 17 regional biobanks in Korea. As of December 2011, a total of 525,416 biospecimens with related information have been secured: 325,952 biospecimens from the general population obtained through cohort studies and 199,464 biospecimens of patients from regional biobanks. A large scale genomic study, Korea Association Resource (KARE) and many researches utilized the biospecimens secured through Korea Genome Epidemiology Study (KoGES) and Korea Biobank Project (KBP). Construction of ‘National Biobank of Korea’, a dedicated biobank building at Osong means that NBK can manage and check quality of the biospecimens with promising distribution of 26 million vials of biospecimen, which provide the infrastructure for the development of health technology in Korea. The NBK and the National Library of Medicine (to be constructed in 2014) will play a central role in future biomedical research in Korea.
PMCID: PMC3738708  PMID: 24159511
biobank; biospecimen; cohort; Korea Biobank Project; Korea Biobank Network; National Biobank of Korea
5.  How to Design Biospecimen Identifiers and Integrate Relevant Functionalities into Your Biospecimen Management System 
Biopreservation and Biobanking  2014;12(3):199-205.
Effective tracking of biospecimens within a biobank requires that each biospecimen has a unique identifier (ID). This ID can be found on the sample container as well as in the biospecimen management system. In the latter, the biospecimen ID is the key to annotation data such as location, quality, and sample processing. Guidelines such as the Best Practices from the International Society of Biological and Environmental Repositories only state that a unique identifier should be issued for each sample. However, to our knowledge, all guidelines lack a specific description of how to actually generate such an ID and how this can be supported by an IT system. Here, we provide a guide for biobankers on how to generate a biospecimen ID for your biobank. We also provide an example of how to apply this guide using a longitudinal multi-center research project (and its biobank). Starting with a description of the biobank's purpose and workflows through to collecting requirements from stakeholders and relevant documents (i.e., guidelines or data protection concepts), and existing IT-systems, we describe in detail how a concept to develop an ID system can be developed from this information. The concept contains two parts: one is the generation of the biospecimen ID according to the requirements of stakeholders, existing documentation such as guidelines or data protection concepts, and existing IT-infrastructures, and the second is the implementation of the biospecimen IDs and related functionalities covering the handling of individual biospecimens within an existing biospecimen management system. From describing the concept, the article moves on to how the new concept supports both existing or planned biobank workflows. Finally, the implementation and validation step is outlined to the reader and practical hints are provided for each step.
PMCID: PMC4066232  PMID: 24955734
6.  Disparities in knowledge and willingness to donate research biospecimens: a mixed-methods study in an underserved urban community 
Journal of Community Genetics  2014;5(4):329-336.
Although research involving biospecimens is essential in advancing cancer research, minorities, especially African-Americans, are underrepresented in such research. We conducted a mixed-method (qualitative focus groups among African-Americans and quantitative cross-sectional surveys) study on factors associated with biospecimen knowledge and donation intent in the medically underserved urban communities in Southeast and Southwest Washington, DC. Focus groups were conducted among 41 African-Americans and survey data was available from 302 community residents of different races/ethnicities using convenience sampling. We used logistic regression to model the association between biospecimen knowledge and donation intent with selected sociodemographic variables using survey data. Only 47 % of the participants had knowledge of the different types of biospecimens. In multivariate logistic regression models, male gender, African-American race, and low education levels were significantly associated with lower knowledge about biospecimens. Compared to Whites (79 %), fewer African-Americans (39 %) and Hispanics (57 %) had knowledge of biospecimens but the difference was significant for African-Americans only. Positive intent to donate biospecimens for research was observed among 36 % of the survey respondents. After multivariate adjustment, only biospecimen knowledge was associated with donation intent (odds ratio = 1.91, 95 % confidence interval 1.12, 3.27). Contrary to popular opinion, “mistrust of the medical community” was not the most commonly reported barrier for biospecimen donation among African-Americans. “Not knowing how biospecimens will be used” and “lack of knowledge of biospecimens” were the most common barriers. Our study highlights the importance of education on biospecimens among community residents to increase minority participation in biospecimen research.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s12687-014-0187-z) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4159473  PMID: 24771039
Biospecimen; Knowledge; African-American; Disparities
7.  International Approaches to Advancing Biospecimen Science 
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.
PMCID: PMC3089662  PMID: 21430299
Biospecimen science; Biospecimen research; Biospecimen; Best practices
8.  A Strategic Plan for the Second Phase (2013–2015) of the Korea Biobank Project 
The Korea Biobank Project (KBP) was led by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to establish a network between the National Biobank of Korea and biobanks run by university-affiliated general hospitals (regional biobanks). The Ministry of Health and Welfare started the project to enhance medical and health technology by collecting, managing, and providing researchers with high-quality human bioresources. The National Biobank of Korea, under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, collects specimens through various cohorts and regional biobanks within university hospitals gather specimens from patients. The project began in 2008, and the first phase ended in 2012, which meant that there needed to be a plan for the second phase that begins in 2013. Consequently, professionals from within and outside the project were gathered to develop a plan for the second phase. Under the leadership of the planning committee, six working groups were formed to formulate a practical plan. By conducting two workshops with experts in the six working groups and the planning committee and three forums in 2011 and 2012, they have developed a strategic plan for the second phase of the KBP. This document presents a brief report of the second phase of the project based on a discussion with them.
During the first phase of the project (2008–2012), a network was set up between the National Biobank of Korea and 17 biobanks at university-affiliated hospitals in an effort to unify informatics and governance among the participating biobanks. The biobanks within the network manage data on their biospecimens with a unified Biobank Information Management System. Continuous efforts are being made to develop a common standard operating procedure for resource collection, management, distribution, and personal information security, and currently, management of these data is carried out in a somewhat unified manner. In addition, the KBP has trained and educated professionals to work within the biobanks, and has also carried out various publicity promotions to the public and researchers. During the first phase, biospecimens from more than 300,000 participants through various cohorts and biospecimens from more than 200,000 patients from hospitals were collected, which were distributed to approximately 600 research projects.
The planning committee for the second phase evaluated that the first phase of the KBP was successful. However, the first phase of the project was meant to allow autonomy to the individual biobanks. The biobanks were able to choose the kind of specimens they were going to collect and the amount of specimen they would set as a goal, as well as being allowed to choose their own methods to manage their biobanks (autonomy). Therefore, some biobanks collected resources that were easy to collect and the resources needed by researchers were not strategically collected. In addition, there was also a low distribution rate to researchers outside of hospitals, who do not have as much access to specimens and cases as those in hospitals. There were also many cases in which researchers were not aware of the KBP, and the distribution processes were not set up to be convenient to the demands of researchers.
Accordingly, the second phase of the KBP will be focused on increasing the integration and cooperation between the biobanks within the network. The KBP plans to set goals for the strategic collection of the needed human bioresources. Although the main principle of the first phase was to establish infrastructure and resource collection, the key objective of the second phase is the efficient utilization of gathered resources. In order to fully utilize the gathered resources in an efficient way, distribution systems and policies must be improved. Vitalization of distribution, securing of high-value resource and related clinical and laboratory information, international standardization of resource management systems, and establishment of a virtuous cycle between research and development (R&D) and biobanks are the four main strategies. Based on these strategies, 12 related objectives have been set and are planned to be executed.
PMCID: PMC3767092  PMID: 24159540
biobank; biobank network; biospecimen; Korea Biobank Project; National Biobank of Korea
9.  Common Data Elements for Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury: Recommendations from the Biospecimens and Biomarkers Workgroup 
Journal of Neurotrauma  2012;29(4):672-677.
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.
PMCID: PMC3289842  PMID: 22106839
best practices; biomarkers; common data elements; pediatrics; standardization; traumatic brain injury
10.  The Evolution of Biobanking 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.
PMCID: PMC3409343  PMID: 22579478
11.  Awareness and interest in biospecimen donation for cancer research: views from gatekeepers and prospective participants in the Latino community 
Journal of Community Genetics  2013;4(4):461-468.
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.
PMCID: PMC3773314  PMID: 23733683
Latino; Biobank; Biospecimen donation; Community-based; Cancer
12.  Engaging diverse populations about biospecimen donation for cancer research 
Journal of Community Genetics  2014;5(4):313-327.
Clinical research increasingly relies upon the availability of appropriate genetic materials; however, the proportion of biospecimens from racial/ethnic minority patients and healthy controls are underrepresented, which preclude equitable research across all patient groups for cancer treatment. National Cancer Institute-funded Community Network Program Centers in California, Florida, and New York collaborated with local community partners to conduct three independent formative research studies with diverse (African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and White) participants to explore their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about biobanking, and their experiences with the donation of biospecimens. Our findings demonstrated similarities in overall low knowledge and understanding about the use of biospecimens for research. This was exacerbated for non-English speakers. Racial and ethnic groups differed with regard to a number of factors that are obstacles for participation, e.g., continuing medical mistrust (African Americans), lack of benefit (Hispanics), apprehension about the physical toll of donating (Vietnamese), usage of biospecimen for research (Hmong and Chinese), and suspicion of exploitation by corporate entities (Whites). However, participants uniformly reported general interest and willingness to participate in biobanking for altruistic purposes, particularly to benefit future generations. This interest was framed with a strong admonition that donations should be accompanied by transparency about study sponsorship and ownership, distribution and use of biospecimens, and study information that fit participants’ backgrounds and experiences. This cross-cultural regional analysis offers significant insights into the similarities and variations in opinions and perceptions about biobanking and the collection of biospecimens for use in cancer research.
PMCID: PMC4159470  PMID: 24664489
Biobanking; Biospecimens; Asian Americans; African Americans; Hispanics; Medically underserved
13.  The Establishment of an ISO Compliant Cancer Biobank for Jordan and its Neighboring Countries Through Knowledge Transfer and Training 
Research studies aimed at advancing cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment depend on a number of key resources, including a ready supply of high-quality annotated biospecimens from diverse ethnic populations that can be used to test new drugs, assess the validity of prognostic biomarkers, and develop tailor-made therapies. In November 2011, KHCCBIO was established at the King Hussein Cancer Center (KHCC) with the support of Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) funding from the European Union ( KHCCBIO was developed for the purpose of achieving an ISO accredited cancer biobank through the collection, processing, and preservation of high-quality, clinically annotated biospecimens from consenting cancer patients, making it the first cancer biobank of its kind in Jordan. The establishment of a state-of-the-art, standardized biospecimen repository of matched normal and lung tumor tissue, in addition to blood components such as serum, plasma, and white blood cells, was achieved through the support and experience of its European partners, Trinity College Dublin, Biostór Ireland, and accelopment AG. To date, KHCCBIO along with its partners, have worked closely in establishing an ISO Quality Management System (QMS) under which the biobank will operate. A Quality Policy Manual, Validation, and Training plan have been developed in addition to the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for consenting policies on ethical issues, data privacy, confidentiality, and biobanking bylaws. SOPs have also been drafted according to best international practices and implemented for the donation, procurement, processing, testing, preservation, storage, and distribution of tissues and blood samples from lung cancer patients, which will form the basis for the procurement of other cancer types. KHCCBIO will be the first ISO accredited cancer biobank from a diverse ethnic Middle Eastern and North African population. It will provide a unique and valuable resource of high-quality human biospecimens and anonymized clinicopathological data to the cancer research communities world-wide.
PMCID: PMC3962647  PMID: 24620764
14.  Public attitudes regarding the use of electronic health information and residual clinical tissues for research 
Journal of Community Genetics  2013;5(3):205-213.
Use of electronic medical records (EMR) and residual clinical biospecimens have become important for the conduct of biomedical research. Currently, human subjects’ protection regulations permit much of this research to be conducted without individual informed consent, posing a risk to biomedical research from public objection. We sought to understand public attitudes regarding access to EMRs and residual clinical biospecimens. This article reports the results of 12 focus groups with 131 participants conducted in Utah, Washington, Arizona, and Minnesota. Results indicate strong support for biomedical and genetic research in general and clear support for improved patient education regarding research access to individual data and biospecimens. Our participants were supportive of an opt-out approach to patient decision-making regarding research access to clinical data and biospecimens for research in general.
PMCID: PMC4059848  PMID: 24307509
Biobanking; Electronic health records; Human subject protections; Public attitudes
15.  Biospecimens and Biorepositories for the Community Pathologist 
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.
PMCID: PMC3679406  PMID: 22646276
16.  Custodianship as an Ethical Framework for Biospecimen-Based Research 
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.
PMCID: PMC2858050  PMID: 20332272
17.  Public Perspectives on Biospecimen Procurement: What Biorepositories Should Consider 
Biopreservation and Biobanking  2013;11(3):137-143.
Human biospecimens are central to biobanking efforts, yet how members of the public think about biobank procurement strategies is not well understood. This study aimed to explore public perspectives toward the procurement of residual clinical material versus “direct” procurement strategies such as the drawing of blood.
Members of the public residing in and beyond the biobank catchment area of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics were randomly selected to participate in focus groups and a telephone survey.
The majority of survey participants (75%, n=559) found both residual and direct procurement strategies equally workable. Small proportions preferred either residual (15%; n=117) or direct (5%; n=40) procurement. Focus group participants (n=48) could identify benefits to both procurement strategies, but raised concerns about possible donor inconvenience/discomfort and reduced biospecimen accrual in the case of direct procurement. Residual procurement raised concerns about lower-quality samples being procured without full donor awareness.
Biobanks should consider that members of the public in their research programs may be willing to make specimen donations regardless of whether a residual or direct procurement strategy is employed. Limiting patient discomfort and inconvenience may make direct procurement strategies more acceptable to some members of the public. Ensuring donor awareness through effective informed consent may allay public concerns about the indirectness of donating clinical biospecimens.
PMCID: PMC4076971  PMID: 24850089
18.  Design and utilization of the colorectal and pancreatic neoplasm virtual biorepository: An early detection research network initiative 
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.
PMCID: PMC2956178  PMID: 21031013
Colorectal and pancreatic neoplasm; tissue banking informatics
19.  Tissue Banking, Bioinformatics, and Electronic Medical Records: The Front-End Requirements for Personalized Medicine 
Journal of Oncology  2013;2013:368751.
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.
PMCID: PMC3683471  PMID: 23818899
20.  The value of home-based collection of biospecimens in reproductive epidemiology. 
Environmental Health Perspectives  2004;112(1):94-104.
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.
PMCID: PMC1241803  PMID: 14698937
21.  Planned Variation in Preanalytical Conditions to Evaluate Biospecimen Stability in the National Children’s Study (NCS) 
Preanalytical conditions encountered during collection, processing, and storage of biospecimens may influence laboratory results. The National Children’s Study (NCS) is a planned prospective cohort study of 100,000 families to examine the influence of a wide variety of exposures on child health. In developing biospecimen collection, processing, and storage procedures for the NCS, we identified several analytes of different biochemical categories for which it was unclear to what extent deviations from NCS procedures could influence measurement results.
A pilot study was performed to examine effects of preanalytic sample handling conditions (delays in centrifugation, freezing delays, delays in separation from cells, additive delay, and tube type) on concentrations of eight different analytes. 2,825 measurements were made to assess 15 unique combinations of analyte and handling conditions in blood collected from 151 women of childbearing age (≥20 individuals per handling condition).
The majority of analytes were stable under the conditions evaluated. However, levels of plasma interleukin-6 and serum insulin were decreased in response to sample centrifugation delays of up to 5.5 hours post collection (P<0.0001). In addition, delays in freezing centrifuged plasma samples (comparing 24, 48 and 72 hours to immediate freezing) resulted in increased levels of adrenocorticotropic hormone (P=0.0014).
Determining stability of proposed analytes in response to preanalytical conditions and handling helps to ensure high-quality specimens for study now and in the future. The results inform development of procedures, plans for measurement of analytes, and interpretation of laboratory results.
PMCID: PMC4100775  PMID: 23924524
ACTH; Biospecimen stability; CDT; estradiol; free T4; IGF-1; IL-6; Insulin; vitamin C; Preanalytical variation
22.  Biospecimen Long-Chain N-3 PUFA and Risk of Colorectal Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Data from 60,627 Individuals 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e110574.
Several prospective cohort and case-control studies reported the inconsistent association between biospecimen composition of C20 and C22 long-chain (LC) n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) and colorectal cancer (CRC) risk. The aim of the present study was to investigate the association of biospecimen LC n-3 PUFA with CRC risk based on prospective cohort and case-control studies.
Methods and Results
Cochrane Library, PubMed, and EMBASE database were searched up to February 2014 for eligible studies. Risk ratios (RRs) or odds ratios (ORs) from prospective and case-control studies were combined using a random-effects model in the highest vs. lowest categorical analysis. Nonlinear dose-response relationships were assessed using restricted cubic spline regression models. Difference in tissue composition of LC n-3 PUFA between cases and noncases was analyzed as standardized mean difference (SMD). Three prospective cohort studies and 8 case-control studies were included in the present study, comprising 60,627 participants (1,499 CRC cases and 59,128 noncases). Higher biospecimen LC n-3 PUFA was significantly associated with a lower risk of CRC in case-control (pooled OR: 0.76; 95% CI: 0.59, 0.97; I2 = 10.00%) and prospective cohort studies (pooled RR: 0.70; 95% CI: 0.55, 0.88; I2 = 0.00%), respectively. A significant dose-response association was found of biospecimen C20:5n-3 (P for nonlinearity  = 0.02) and C22:6n-3 (P for trend  = 0.01) with CRC risk, respectively. Subjects without CRC have significantly higher biospecimen compositions of C20:5n-3 (SMD: 0.27; 95%: 0.13, 0.41), C22:6n-3 (SMD: 0.23; 95%: 0.11, 0.34) and total LC n-3 PUFA (SMD: 0.22; 95% CI: 0.07, 0.37) compared with those with CRC.
The present evidence suggests human tissue compositions of LC n-3 PUFA may be an independent predictive factor for CRC risk, especially C20:5n-3 and C22:6n-3. This needs to be confirmed with more large-scale prospective cohort studies.
PMCID: PMC4222788  PMID: 25375637
23.  Telethon Network of Genetic Biobanks: a key service for diagnosis and research on rare diseases 
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.
PMCID: PMC3766640  PMID: 24004821
Biobanking; Networking; Biological resources centre; IT infrastructure; Biological material; Biospecimens; Cryopreservation; Rare diseases; Patients’ associations
24.  Ethics of Clear Health Communication: applying the CLean Look approach to Communicate Biobanking Information for Cancer research 
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.
PMCID: PMC3735435  PMID: 23124500
Biobanking; health communication; ethics
25.  ‘What’s in the NIDDK CDR?’—public query tools for the NIDDK central data repository 
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Disease (NIDDK) Central Data Repository (CDR) is a web-enabled resource available to researchers and the general public. The CDR warehouses clinical data and study documentation from NIDDK funded research, including such landmark studies as The Diabetes Control and Complications Trial (DCCT, 1983–93) and the Epidemiology of Diabetes Interventions and Complications (EDIC, 1994–present) follow-up study which has been ongoing for more than 20 years. The CDR also houses data from over 7 million biospecimens representing 2 million subjects. To help users explore the vast amount of data stored in the NIDDK CDR, we developed a suite of search mechanisms called the public query tools (PQTs). Five individual tools are available to search data from multiple perspectives: study search, basic search, ontology search, variable summary and sample by condition. PQT enables users to search for information across studies. Users can search for data such as number of subjects, types of biospecimens and disease outcome variables without prior knowledge of the individual studies. This suite of tools will increase the use and maximize the value of the NIDDK data and biospecimen repositories as important resources for the research community.
Database URL:
PMCID: PMC3625049  PMID: 23396299

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