Perspective On Cancer Biomarker Biobanks

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Liquid biopsy is an area of immense opportunity for the early detection and screening of cancer. Suitable fluids include stool, blood, sputum, urine, and others. This is aided by emerging technology which can allow the measurement of metabolites in unconventional mediums such as sweat. 

Unfortunately, less than 1% of biomarkers reported in the literature are actually translated into clinical use. Biomarker discovery, generalization and eventual implementation in the clinic can be facilitated by biobanks.

A recent perspective, published in the journal Cancers, with first author Kim Lommen of the Maastricht University Medical Center, The Netherlands, elaborated on several issues pertinent to establishing a new biobank and using an existing biobank, with the aim of developing and validating biomarkers for early detection of cancer. 

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For establishing a new biobank the following was considered:

  • Blood
  • Feces
  • Urine
  • Other

For using existing biobanks the following was considered:

  • Level of Evidence
  • Sample Selection
  • Standardization

Biobank sustainability was also considered with the important principle of Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable (FAIR) discussed.

In 2016, the ‘FAIR Guiding Principles for scientific data management and stewardship’ were published in the journal Scientific Data. The principles emphasise automated machine actionability which is important as people increasingly require assistance to deal with increased volume, complexity, and creation speed of data.

The challenges of cost estimation were touched upon. The benefits of standard operating procedures (SOPs) were mentioned. Cost-effectiveness, visibility, and promotion of the biobank was cited as necessary to generate additional funding.

“Biobanks could facilitate relatively fast validation of research findings like diagnostic biomarkers for cancer, provided that the used samples match the research question. Considering the future purpose of samples is crucial before implementing standardized procedures and logistics to process and store them. Interoperability of samples from different biobanks could facilitate larger sample sizes and thereby increase statistical power of a study. However, as biomarkers should be robust, the degree of standardization between biobanks necessary for biomarker research remains uncertain,” concluded the authors.