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Last Updated: 07/28/14

Patient Corner

What are Biospecimens and Biorepositories

What are biospecimens?

Biospecimens are materials taken from the human body, such as tissue, blood, plasma, and urine that can be used for cancer diagnosis and analysis. When patients have a biopsy, surgery, or other procedure, often a small amount of the specimen removed can be stored and used for later research. Once these samples have been properly processed and stored they are known as human biospecimens.

Doctors and researchers may analyze biospecimens to look for indications of disease in the donor. Biospecimens can confirm whether a disease is present or absent in a particular patient, but they also provide other information that may be useful to the physician or a researcher. Each sample may contain DNA, proteins, and other molecules important for understanding disease progression.

What are biorepositories?

Biorepositories (or biobanks) are “libraries” where biospecimens are stored and made available for scientists to study for clinical or research purposes. These biospecimens are commonly annotated with information about the patient from whom the biospecimen was taken, including data about their medical conditions and background. There are thousands of biorepositories in the United States, which vary widely by size, the type of biospecimens collected, and purpose.

One of the biorepository’s highest priorities is protecting the privacy and sanctity of personal and medical information. To find out more, visit the Frequently Asked Questions.