IARC Biobank

The IARC Biobank is one of the biggest cancer biobanks in the world, currently storing over 5.1 million samples from 562,000 people.

IARC Biobank and Cohort Building Network
IARC's BCNet initiative supports biobanks in Low and Middle Income Countries (LMICs).
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Note: The source of some of the information in this article is the IARC Biobank.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO) and works with international collaborators in many countries around the world. The IARC has a centralized biobank located in Lyon, France, that stores samples from IARC projects and international partners. Sample collections at the IARC Biobank include population-based and disease-based collections from many countries around the world including countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Oceania.

The IARC Biobank is one of the biggest cancer biobanks in the world, currently storing over 5.1 million samples from 562,000 people. This includes 4 million samples from over 370,000 participants of the EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) study.

Featured Partners

As a publicly funded resource, the IARC Biobank has a mandate for collaborative research. Samples stored at the IARC are available to non-profit public sector researchers whose projects align with the legal, ethical and scientific standards of IARC/WHO.

Samples Available at the IARC Biobank

The IARC Biobank stores a range of human biological samples from cancer-related projects. These include:

  • tumor tissues
  • plasma
  • serum
  • urine
  • extracted DNA
  • paraffin-embedded samples
  • dried blood spots
  • hair
  • nail

Sample-Related Data Available at the IARC Biobank

Researchers may access patient data and sample quality data on request. All samples and data are anonymized to protect patient privacy. Samples and data are tracked using in-house LIMS (laboratory information management system) software. 

Collection and Storage Procedures

The IARC Biobank receives samples collected from many different locations by a number of different collaborators. Biobank staff use Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to standardize sample handling and storage. The IARC ethics committee approves all study proposals and procedures.

The IARC Biobank minimizes sample handling time by using automated liquid handling robots. Tissue and liquid samples are frozen on arrival at the biobank in liquid nitrogen -196°C or in freezers at -20°C, -40°C and -80°C. They also have a storage room for paraffin blocks, slides, hair samples, nail samples, dried blood spots. 

Their shipping SOPs follow International Air Transport Association (IATA) standards and regulations on dangerous goods transportation.

Quality Control

Staff follow SOPs to receive, store, retrieve and ship samples, and to conduct quality control testing. These SOPs are available on the IARC website. The IARC has also published a freely available book covering guidelines and recommendations for biobanks, called the ‘Common Minimum Technical Standards and Protocols for Biobanks Dedicated to Cancer Research’


The IARC Biobank provides a number of pre-analytical sample processing services, including:

  • sample retrieval and aliquoting
  • sample management using in-house LIMS
  • sample redistribution and shipment
  • DNA extraction

Researcher Criteria

Samples at the IARC are available to researchers who work in the non-profit public sector, and whose projects align with IARC/WHO legal, ethical and scientific standards. Researchers must provide results from any experiments using IARC samples to the IARC, unless otherwise specified in the project agreement.

How to Access Samples at the IARC Biobank

Researchers can find more information at the IARC Biobank website. The first step in accessing IARC samples is to contact the IARC contact person. Researchers will then need to fill out a Project Application form and a Partner Profile form, both of which are available on the IARC website. The IARC ethics committee must approve all proposals.

Information on Other Biobanks

We feature a range of biobanks on Biobanking.com to make it easier for researchers to find the samples and data you need for your projects. You can find more information on other biobanks using the ‘Biobanks’ link at the top of the page or by clicking on the images below.

Biobank Graz is one of the biggest biobanks in the world with 20 million tissue, blood and DNA samples from over 1.2 million patients.

Nottingham Health Science BiobankThe Nottingham Health Science Biobank provides samples for a wide range of cancers and other disease conditions to researchers in academic, non-profit and for-profit organizations. 

Ukraine Association of Biobank is a single access point for biospecimens stored in a network of academic and industry institutions across the Ukraine.