A new consortium of banks that store biological samples for cancer research was announced today at the National Cancer Research Institute conference in Birmingham.

The Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) will tackle many of the problems currently hampering cancer research using human samples. At present, some of the most pressing research questions cannot be answered using samples from a single bank, as the numbers available are too small. And combining samples from more than one bank can generate misleading results as the methods they use to prepare and preserve samples can differ.

Archives of tumour tissue, blood and other samples from the body are fast becoming the cornerstone of cancer research – especially in translational studies looking at the effects of potential new treatments. The CCB will work towards the adoption of common policies and
standard methods, which will accelerate research into the causes and treatment of cancer.

The Confederation of Cancer Biobanks will greatly boost cancer research in the UK. It will lead, for the first time in this country, to the use of common standards for the custodianship of the precious cancer tissues that patients donate. Also, by providing access to larger numbers of high-quality samples, the CCB will make possible many important research studies that have historically been difficult to carry out.

Dr Brian Clark, chief executive, onCore UK

The CCB will provide assurance to organisations funding cancer research that resources are being managed in a consistent and effective manner. Whilst retaining independent identities and management, members will work towards a harmonised approach to the collection, storage and access of biological samples. They will agree upon common ethical and legal principles and policies for the operation of member biobanks. And to avoid duplication of effort and unnecessary competition, members will share resources and information and pursue the co-development of a common web-based portal for researchers seeking access to samples.

The CCB has arisen following discussions between the Tayside Tissue Bank, the Glasgow Biobank, the Wales Cancer Bank and onCore UK. Membership, however, will be open to any institution managing a cancer tissue bank willing and able to work to the commonly agreed principles and practices of the CCB. The intention is to be as inclusive as possible to create an extensive network of tumour banks across the UK.

It’s a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. By working together the precious donations of many individual patients to these banks will be able to make a greater difference to the fight against cancer.

Derek Stewart, chairman of the CCB working group and a cancer patient