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Integrating biobanks: addressing the practical and ethical issues to deliver a valuable tool for cancer research


Cancer is caused by complex interactions between genes, environment and lifestyles. Biobanks of well-annotated human tissues are an important resource for studying the underlying mechanisms of cancer. Although such biobanks exist, their integration to form larger biobanks is now required to provide the diversity of samples that are needed to study the complexity and heterogeneity of cancer. Clear guidelines and policies are also required to address the challenges of integrating individual institutional or national biobanks and build public trust. This Science and Society article highlights some of the main practical and ethical issues that are undergoing discussion in the integration of tissue biobanks for cancer.

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Figure 1: The steps involved in establishing a biobank.


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Correspondence to R. William G. Watson.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Related links

Related links


National Cancer Institute Drug Dictionary 




Canadian Tumour Repository Network (CTRNet)

Cancer Bioinformatics Grid



European Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRI)

European Forum for Good Clinical Practice

National Cancer Institute Best Practices for Biospecimen Resources

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN)

Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR)


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Watson, R., Kay, E. & Smith, D. Integrating biobanks: addressing the practical and ethical issues to deliver a valuable tool for cancer research. Nat Rev Cancer 10, 646–651 (2010).

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