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Last Updated: 06/04/15

Overview: Establishment and Role of Biospecimen Research Network

Biospecimens, such as tissue, blood or urine, are routinely collected to aid in patient diagnosis and Biomarker research. Biospecimens are vulnerable to environmental and biological stresses introduced by routine collection, processing, storage, and transport procedures prior to analysis. These “pre-analytical” variables may transform the molecular profile of the biospecimen before it reaches the clinician or researcher. Without proper understanding of the impact of pre-analytical variables, molecular changes may be misinterpreted as disease-related or even disease-specific findings. More importantly, clinically relevant proteomic biomarkers obtained from blood and tissues promise to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and therapy and several preanalytical factors have been shown to influence qualification and validation of these biomarkers. New attention to this issue is needed, particularly with the movement toward an era of “Personalized Medicine”, where appropriate preservation of biospecimens will be essential for molecular tests that diagnose disease and target therapies based on patient molecular characteristics. There is a need to understand and standardize collection, processing, and storage procedures and develop quality control tools in order to minimize variations observed in biospecimens when assessing these biomarkers.

The National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) branch of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch (BBRB), formerly Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR), initiated the Biospecimen Research Network (BRN) in early 2006 to address some of these challenges and to coordinate and support systematic investigation into how collection, processing, and storage of human biospecimens affect subsequent molecular analysis. The goal of the BRN was to stimulate original research and disseminate available data in biospecimen science. To support this goal, the BRN sponsors conducted and collaborated on studies to evaluate the effects of biospecimen pre-analytical variables on the outcomes of molecular assays for cancer diagnosis and research. BRN-supported research contributed to the development of evidence-based best practices for the collection, processing, storage and transport of biospecimens and to furthermore, communicate the results of such research to the scientific and clinical communities to significantly improve the quality and reproducibility of biospecimen-based diagnostic and research data.

Read More about the individual research projects

Biospecimen Research Network