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The importance of high quality human tissue samples and data for research is well known, and is increasing with the advent of personalised medicine. Researchers, however, continue to cite lack of access to high quality, well annotated samples as a major barrier to their work.

Since 2011, the NCRI Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) has been working with members of the biobanking community to develop and harmonise standards that can be used by biobank staff in the UK, to assure the quality of the samples and data that they hold.

Helping to improve the interoperability of sample collections

The two standards that have been developed – a quality standard and a data standard – are part of CCB’s Harmonisation and Benchmarking Project and can now be downloaded from the CCB website.

► NCRI CCB quality standard and data standard (NCRI webpage)

Professor Andy Hall, NCRI Pathology Lead and Chair of the CCB’s Harmonisation Steering Group says, “It is hoped that use of the standards will help improve the interoperability of sample collections, increase researchers’ confidence in the quality of the collections, ensure samples are fit for purpose, and ultimately lead to better diagnosis and treatment of disease. We encourage biobanks and investigators holding or planning tissue collections to adopt the biobank standards.”

Input from the biobanking community

Although led by the CCB, the standards developed are designed to be generic to all biobanks and tissue collections, irrespective of the disease focus. Broad applicability has been achieved by the hard work of more than 50 members of the biobanking stakeholder community, including representatives of funders, researchers, pathologists, patients and pharmaceutical industries as well as cancer and non-cancer biobank Directors and Managers. They have been reviewed by the broader biobanking community and improved as a result of the comments made.

Further input to the standards

The CCB welcomes continued input on the standards’ suitability, so that changes can be made in line with evolving research needs and increasing scientific knowledge of the factors affecting sample quality. If you have any comments or questions about the standards, you can get in touch with Anne Carter, NCRI Portfolio Lead for Biobanking.

► Email Anne Carter, NCRI Portfolio Lead for Biobanking