A biobank resource to transform Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia research

In 2009, the NCRI Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Subgroup* created a biobank to collect samples from two Phase II clinical studies being conducted by one of its members.

Over time, the NCRI Subgroup developed this to include the collection of samples from all studies led by members of the Subgroup. Alongside the samples, a detailed catalogue of clinical and other information is available through the trials units, adding greatly to the value of the biobank for research.

As a result of its size and quality, the biobank has supported a range of projects that have used its high quality samples to better understand chronic lymphocytic leukaemia. It is a resource available to researchers widely, and as such is supporting a range of research in this area that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.

As well as establishing and developing the biobank, the strong collaborative nature of the NCRI Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Subgroup, the way that the biobank functions, and the group’s connections with industry all contributed towards additional investment in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia by Genomics England.

Genomics England are leading the ground-breaking 100,000 Genomes project – the first project of its kind in the world that aims to sequence 100,000 genomes (a complete set of DNA) of people in the UK with rare diseases and cancer, or their families. Researchers will be able to use this data to far better understand these different diseases, and ultimately improve patient care.

Because of its high quality and usefulness, Genomics England have included the biobank in the 100,000 Genomes Project as a pilot study. Full genomic sequences of samples in the bank will be made, increasing the information that researchers have about the samples and adding greatly to our understanding of chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

As well as showcasing the existence of the biobank as a research resource and using its samples to understand more about chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, the 100,000 Genomes Project investment has leveraged a further £3.5 million into this area of research.

This is one of only three pilot studies across all diseases undertaken as part of the 100,000 Genomes Project and will open up great possibilities for new research in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia and move us towards better diagnosis, care, and treatments for the condition.

The NCRI groups continue to advise on the biobank development and on future benefits that it could bring to the field. The researchers are planning to improve the biobank even further by linking it to other related sample collections and creating an underpinning information management system – Professor Andrew Pettit, Chair of the NCRI Haematological Oncology Clinical Studies Group and Lead for the Biobank explained, “If we can achieve all this, it will be truly transformative.”


* The Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Subgroup is part of the NCRI Haematological Oncology Clinical Studies Group (CSG)