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Patient Corner
scientists look into microsope

Did you know?
There are thousands of biorepositories in the
United States and around the world. They provide biospecimen resources that allow researchers to better understand diseases like cancer. Check out NCI’s Specimen Resource Locator

Biospecimen and Biorepository Basics

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. During a biopsy, surgery, or other procedure a small amount of 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. Biospecimens may contain DNA, RNA, proteins, and other molecules important for understanding disease.

Biospecimens are commonly accompanied by information (annotation) about the patient from whom the biospecimen was taken. This may come from interviews with the patient; medical records patients consent to provide; and from clinical trials that patients volunteer to join. Federal guidelines put a high priority on protecting the privacy of personal and medical information. Click here to find out more.

What are biorepositories (biobanks)?

Biorepositories are "libraries" where biospecimens are stored. They are made available for scientists to study for clinical or research purposes.

How can I Donate Biospecimens?

Biospecimens become available for medical research when patients donate tissue while they are undergoing surgery, biopsy, or other medical procedures. Click here to learn more about biospecimen donation.

To find out more, visit our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)