Biobanking biological materials and linkage to clinical information

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Published: 6 Jan 2015
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Dr Peter Riegman, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Dr Riegman speaks to ecancer at the 2nd EurocanPlatform Translational Research Course about the work he performs on biobanking as part of the EurocanPlatform project.

He highlights the importance of maintaining high quality samples for good research as well as promoting patient awareness around biobanking and tissue samples.

I had a presentation on the work we do on biobanking in EurocanPlatform. So I wanted to cover all the ins and outs for biobanking for the students so they would understand what things are important for them when they get into touch with biobanks. The main measures were about quality, so the message I would like to bring over is that there is so much more to having samples from patients in a good quality than just putting a sample in a freezer. It happens still today that people are just putting samples in freezers and make a note in writing of what’s in the freezer or do it in Excel. But it has to be much more professional than that to have good science and that is one of the main messages I wanted to bring over.

The other main message is that I think that it’s very important that there’s always a sense of having patient material and that ethics is very important. Also the legal framework around it, so some understanding why they have to go to the medical ethical committee or the internal review boards that are out there to have permission to use the material.

What is the significance towards clinical practice?

We have to work with patient organisations to make patients aware of how important it is to have research done on their materials. They already… the cure they get is as good as it gets, is at the moment based on the experience of many, many patients before them and they can contribute. Nowadays things are going that rapidly that we expect that patients survive for a long time, they can actually benefit from their own contributions so that is… To my astonishment, even, if I am at this meeting and look at the other lectures that are given, things are going pretty fast. Most of these examinations are done on patient material and that is why it is so important to actually ask for freezing and not be afraid if things go wrong.

What are the obstacles you have found?

We need to have good quality and when I speak about quality it’s important to realise that before you can use a sample for research purposes there are already a lot of things done to the sample. If you’re not aware of that and you do not treat the sample the same way every time, you get biases in your results later on. To take away this noise, if you take away this noise you’re bound to find your results more quickly. So a lot of noise in your results is not wanted and then your results can stick out. But also if you’re going to work together with other institutes you might find this kind of noise and you must be aware of that. That is also one of the messages I gave.

The next steps for my work are to stay involved with patient organisations but also to work on norms that are… We are working on documents at the moment for ISO and these are technical norm documents and these are about isolating DNA RNA proteins from frozen tissue, from paraffin embedded tissue but also from blood samples. These norms are very important to guarantee some quality before people use samples for experiments and I hope to finish this also within the EurocanPlatform even.