Human tissue biobanks are at the epicenter of clinical research, responsible for providing both clinical samples and annotated data. There is a need for large numbers of samples to provide statistical power to research studies, especially since treatment and diagnosis are becoming ever more personalized. A single biobank cannot provide sufficient numbers of samples to capture the full spectrum of any disease. Currently there is no infrastructure in the United Kingdom (UK) to integrate biobanks. Therefore the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) Working Group 3 looked to establish a data standard to enable biobanks to communicate about the samples they hold and so facilitate the formation of an integrated national network of biobanks. The Working Group examined the existing data standards available to biobanks, such as the MIABIS standard, and compared these to the aims of the working group. The CCB-developed data standard has brought many improvements: (1) Where existing data standards have been developed, these have been incorporated, ensuring compatibility with other initiatives; (2) the standard was written with the expectation that it will be extended for specific disease areas, such as the Breast Cancer Campaign Tissue Bank (BCCTB) and the Strategic Tissue Repository Alliances Through Unified Methods (STRATUM) project; and (3) biobanks will be able to communicate about specific samples, as well as aggregated statistics. The development of this data standard will allow all biobanks to integrate and share information about the samples they hold, facilitating the possibility of a national portal for researchers to find suitable samples for research. In addition, the data standard will allow other clinical services, such as disease registries, to communicate with biobanks in a standardized format allowing for greater cross-discipline data sharing.
Confederation of Cancer Biobanks (CCB) Working Group 3 (2014). A data standard for sourcing fit-for-purpose biological samples in an integrated virtual network of biobanks. Biopreservation and Biobanking, 12(3), 184-191. https://doi.org/10.1089/bio.2013.0089