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Dedicated, prostate cancer-specific “virtual biobank” launched in UK

Posted Nov 07 2010 12:00am

A “virtual biobank” is an electronic database of information about biological specimens and other related information, regardless of where the actual specimens are (or were) orginally found, studied, and actually stored. Such biobanks are increasingly valuable resources for specialized researchers.

According to a media release this morning from the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) in the UK, a new UK Prostate Cancer Sample Collection Database will contain detailed information about some 10,000 biological samples (biopsy cores, pathologically sectioned prostates, etc.) taken from men in the UK with and without prostate cancer, as well as information about related DNA, RNA, blood, and urine samples, giving information on a total of about 100,000 clinically relevant samples. All data held in the virtual biobank has been carefully “anonymized” to protect patient identity. More data from other biological sample collections will be added over time to make the virtual biobank an essential resource for all scientists working to turn prostate cancer discoveries in the lab into better treatments for patients.

Dr. Daniel Brewer of The Institute of Cancer Research  is quoted as saying that, “Until now, UK prostate cancer scientists have generally been limited to conducting research on patient samples they could acquire themselves or through collaborations they forged themselves. This biobank will help improve scientists’ access to precious samples and hence increase the accuracy of results and make new discoveries more likely.” Dr. Brewer has been the lead developer of this virtual biobank.

The “New” Prostate Cancer InfoLink welcomes and encourages the development of this type of widely available, remotely searchable data resource. A similar virtual databank for prostate cancer specimens in the USA would be an immensely valuable resource, facilitating reseach for tens of thousands of members of the cancer research community.

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