Yesterday I had the pleasure of volunteering with the Luekemia & Lymphoma Society at a Wellness Fair held at a local YMCA. One of the presentations was on biobanking. Despite all my volunteering and researching over the last two years I had not heard this term before and wanted to learn more about it. According to the presentation, biobanking is when a person’s biospecimens are stored to be used for research at a later time. I know your next question is what is biospecimens? Biospecimens are blood, urine, skin cells, organ tissue, and other things taken from a body. These biospecimens are preserved and stored in banks were researchers who are approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) are able to use the samples for research. The specimens are taken from healthy individuals as well as individuals who are diagnosed with various medical conditions. The bank houses the biospecimens as well as the demographic and medical information of the person. During the collection process identifiable information is removed so researchers have no way of identifying who you are. You can also change your mind and have your specimen removed at any time. These specimens can be stored and used for many years. The representative discussed how they have samples 30 years or more. He also discussed how majority of their samples are collected from the remains at the end of surgeries which are usually discarded anyway. There are a number of biobanks across the United States that currently house millions of specimens. There is also currently a research project ongoing being conducted by the Moffit Cancer Center and the Tampa Bay Community Center Network to increase awareness and study misconceptions about biobanking. For more information on this study you can access the following page: http://www.moffitt.org/research–clinical-trials/partnerships–studies/tampa-bay-community-center-network/research/research.
Why am I writing about this subject? Having a general understanding of how research works it is my opinion that this is a much better way for new advances in cancer research to be studied. Imagine new treatments being tested directly on human cancer cells without having to have placebo studies or use animals. Being able to see what interactions and/or side effects may occur prior to any testing on patients. This seems to be a better way to conduct research to me. So I encourage anyone who is asked to donate to a biobank to consider the request and get more information before making a decision about donating.
On a side note…today I begin my training for the Women’s Running Magazine’s Half Marathon that will be held on November 24, 2013 in St. Petersburg, FL in honor of my mother. To donate please access my fundraiser page at http://pages.teamintraining.org/sun/StPeteHf13/drshanwalks.