The International Agency For Research On Cancer (IARC) Biobank (IBB)

The map displays the number of IARC samples by country. A color scale gives an idea of the number of samples provided by country, with a lighter blue for the least and a darker blue for the greatest. A grey color corresponds to countries without samples at IARC to date. Source: IARC.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is part of the World Health Organization (WHO). The aim of the IARC is to promote international collaboration in cancer research. The Agency is inter-disciplinary, converging skills in epidemiology, laboratory sciences and biostatistics to identify the causes of cancer so that preventive measures may be taken reducing the burden of disease [1]. The IARC has significant expertise in coordinating research across countries and organizations; its independent status as an international organization facilitates this activity. The Agency has a particular focus on conducting research in low and middle-income countries through partnerships and collaborations with researchers in these regions. In order to facilitate cancer research, the IARC maintains a significant biobank.

The IARC BioBank (IBB) is one of the largest, most varied and richest International collections of samples in the world [2]. It is publicly funded, approximately 60% of its budget is provided by IARC Participating States through the regular budget and the remainder is from research grants. The biobank hosts over 50 different studies, led or coordinated by IARC scientists.

The IBB contains both population-based collections from research projects focusing on gene-environment interactions as in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) study and disease-based collections which focus on biomarkers for example the International Head and Neck Cancer Epidemiology (INHANCE) study.

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The IBB contains 5.1 million biological samples from 562,000 individuals. The EPIC study contributes over 370,000 individuals and 4 million of the samples. Around one million samples from other collections with close to 200,000 individuals. Most of the samples are body fluids, including plasma, serum, urine and extracted DNA samples.

A major role of the IARC is to promote scientific cooperation. It is intended that the ongoing cataloging of bio-specimens and studies within the IBB will stimulate new opportunities for collaboration between the Agency and scientists internationally [3].