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Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) — Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB) Cancer Diagnosis Program (CDP) Biorepositories & Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB)
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Last Updated: 04/15/21

Biospecimen Science

Glass tubes identified with TCGA barcodes

Biospecimens consist of living cells or suspensions of molecules extracted from living organisms and are used to help researchers and physicians better understand and diagnose disease. Biospecimens may be affected by environmental changes, surgical procedures or stresses during handling, storage, and transport. Even factors such as medications or medical procedures can alter a biospecimen and affect the data collected from it for use in assays such as clinical diagnostics. These changes caused by non-natural conditions represent a type of variation known in medical research as "pre-analytical factors." Such pre-analytical factors can contribute to variation in research results and can make it difficult for researchers and medical professionals to reproduce their findings. Findings may be misinterpreted as disease-related or even disease-specific, when they are actually caused by pre-analytical factors.

There is a considerable lack of scientific understanding of the effects of pre-analytical variables on human tissues and how these affect clinical and research results. BBRB is an international leader in the scientific field of Biospecimen Science, which includes the study of pre-analytical factors, to better understand how to best collect, process and store biospecimens, and how to best use existing biospecimen resources. Our research helps to discover important relationships between biospecimen handling and quality and reproducibility of clinical and research findings.

BBRB's programs in Biospecimen Science include: