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Supporting a national network of biobanks to improve cancer research

To do their jobs, cancer researchers need to be able to access high-quality tumour samples. These samples allow them to test new drugs, observe similarities and differences between tumours and learn more about the mutations that cause each cancer, among many other things.

In this context, biobanks play a pivotal role in cancer research. They provide a central location for scientists to access high-quality samples that help them further their research.

Since 2015, the Terry Fox Research Institute has been providing strategic funding to the Canadian Tissue Repository Network (CTRNet), an organization that is uniting biobanks across the country to enhance the capacity and quality of biobanking in Canada.

Partnering with CTRNet is enabling TFRI to ensure its scientists and clinician-scientists have access to tissue samples and clinical data that is of the highest quality and standards. This means that the tissue used in our studies is properly collected, stored, and maintained, that materials are provided properly and that all necessary documentation, including patient consent, is obtained.

“Our work with TFRI is helping CTRNet to meet its mission to foster studies into the determinants of cancer, the prediction of response and the identification of new therapies,” says CTRNet’s principal investigator Dr. Brent Schacter.

With help from funds provided by TFRI, CTRnet is developing an online pan-Canadian repository for storage of and access to tissue and clinical data by research partners across the country. In addition to ensuring the quality and integrity of tissues samples and clinical data collected and stored for use in research, the repository also safeguards the interests of tissue donors.

CTRNet has worked with investigators of TFRI’s pan-Canadian ovarian study, called COEUR, to create a customized database. Dr. Anne-Marie Mes-Masson, principal investigator, explains the arrangement.

“CTRNet is supporting the TFRI’s COEUR study on ovarian cancer including the adoption of ATiM, a customized, unified database for cancer biobanking that stores relevant information on accrued samples. Together with CTRNet’s ethical and standard operating procedures, this centralized database ensures there are high-quality samples available for the study and that study sites across Canada are following consistent practices resulting in top-level quality assurance. Our collaboration is pointing the way for future pan-Canadian projects and highlighting the benefits of an ethical, transparent, high-quality biobank structure that utilizes accessible online technology.”