John Potter, M.D., Ph.D., senior vp and director of the division of public health sciences at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center (Seattle), also pointed out the importance of obtaining sufficient data on environmental exposures to carcinogens when collecting samples for a biorespository.
The massive increase of the incidence of colon cancers, for example, in Japan since the 1960s, can only be explained by environmental factors as the genetics of a human population cannot change this rapidly.
Therefore, when we are sampling for a biobank we need to gather information on people and their exposure history [to potential carcinogens] not just their tumors.
If we dont do this kind of research well just be collecting samples in biobanks for the sake of it and will never gain an understanding of the causes of diseases like cancer.
Sample handling and storage was identified at the summit as one of the key obstacles to providing the best clinical biosamples.
We are still assessing what format to store our biospecimens in the OnCore UK bank as there is no one size fits all because different researchers require tissues for a whole range of applications, says Clark.
Supplying frozen samples is the current benchmark but fresh tissue is much more useful for functional assays in translational medicine.
Denis Hochstrasser, M.D., vice dean in the faculty of medicine and a leading proteomics expert at Geneva University and University Hospitals (Geneva) added, Most blood or serum that is kept in biobanks is stored frozen so is might be worthless for several types of proteomics analysis.
Since proteins are like a Lego system in water they can break up easily or get modified when stored in water for a long time even in a frozen state, whereas DNA is generally more robust in solution.
Additionally, in serum there are around a million proteins; some of them in very low concentration so 2-D PAGE has too low a dynamic range to see many of these low copy number proteins in frozen serum.
Dr. Hochstrasser also presented an example of the effects that storing a blood sample on a bench for six hours has before biochemical testing. The results showed that even something as simple as storage conditions had a profound effect on the levels of metabolite within the sample.
Before setting up a biobank, scientists should define what it is they want to find out from those samples, he advised.
For example, if they want those cells to live again they have to freeze them slowly to freeze the fluid around the cells to prevent the cells from breaking open. Since there is currently no single method of storing samples that will fit all purposes, samples that are going to be used for a range of applications, such as genomics, proteomics, and metabolomics, need to be prepared in different ways, explained Dr. Hochstrasser.
Stem cells need to be frozen with DMSO and samples for proteomics studies need to be prepared by total tryptic digests followed by lyophilization, he noted.
If this type of preparation does not occur then many of the samples being put into biobanks today will be worthless for future proteomics or metabolomics research, he warned.