The Wales Cancer Bank has been collecting tissue and blood from cancer patients in Wales since 2005. They have a Human Tissue Authority license and ethics approval to collect, store and distribute human tissue for cancer-related research. The bank is located at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff and funded by Cancer Research Wales, the Welsh Government, and Velindre.
Samples Available at the Wales Cancer Bank
The Wales Cancer Bank collects and stores normal tissue samples, tumor samples, whole blood, serum, saliva and ascites. Tissue samples are stored as frozen samples and as formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) blocks. DNA from whole blood and other fluids (urine, ascites, saliva etc), as well as DNA and RNA from tissue samples are also available to researchers. The bank can generate tissue microarrays from paraffin-embedded tissue samples. They also do bespoke fresh tissue collections for researchers.
To date the Wales Cancer Bank has collected samples from over 16,000 Welsh patients. Available samples include:
- breast cancer
- prostate cancer
- endometrial cancer
- pancreatic cancer
- colorectal cancer
- lung cancer
- renal cancer
- ovarian cancer
- bladder cancer
- oral cavity cancers
- upper respiratory tract cancers
All samples are anonymized to protect patient privacy and are linked to demographic and clinical data. A basic data set including gender, age at operation and diagnosis is supplied with samples. Pathology data (tumor grade, stage, receptor status etc) is also available for all samples. Clinical data (treatment, relapse, death data etc) is collected routinely and available for all samples. Followup data and genetic mutation data are available for some samples.
The Wales Cancer Bank consents patients in Wales with a suspected or confirmed cancer diagnosis and asks them for permission to collect tissue that is excess to diagnostic requirements. That tissue could be from a biopsy or resection procedure.
“We also ask to take additional, research-specific blood samples and, if we have a current project that requires them, other samples such as urine, ascites or saliva,” said Dr Alison Parry-Jones, Manager of the Wales Cancer Bank. “Where there is sufficient tissue we store some frozen (at -80°C) and some paraffin embedded (FFPE). We also ask for some ‘normal’ tissue, that is non-affected tissue adjacent to the tumor. Again, if there is enough, we will freeze some and put the rest into paraffin blocks. Blood samples are spun for serum and plasma (double spun for circulating material) and the cell fraction kept for later DNA extraction.”
All samples are collected, stored and processed according to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure collection methods are consistent. All tissue samples are assessed for tumour content, necrosis, marked lymphoid infiltration etc before being issued to researchers. DNA and RNA also have quality assurance data available.
The Wales Cancer Bank offers a hosting service where they store, process and track samples for clinical trials. Each hosting arrangement is based on individual trial requirements.
The bank also facilitates ‘sub-collections’, whereby researchers can use the Wales Cancer Bank’s ethics approval and related documentation to collect, store and process samples themselves for their research project.
The Wales Cancer Bank offers imaging services including histological sectioning, light microscopy and laser capture microdissection.
Researchers from all countries are welcome to apply to use tissues, and associated data, stored at the Wales Cancer Bank so long as their research is cancer-related. This includes researchers from academic institutions, non-profit organizations and for-profit companies.
“There are no geographic or sector criteria, but the research has to be cancer-related and good science. The Wales Cancer Bank has an external review panel who assess all applications for samples and/or data and approve on the basis of good science and the likelihood to progress cancer research,” said Dr Parry-Jones.
How to Access Samples from the Wales Cancer Bank
The Wales Cancer Bank website has an online search feature that allows researchers to search through their catalog of samples.
They also have a dedicated email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) for researchers wishing to ask for more detailed information or to enquire about bespoke or fresh tissue collections.
The application form is available on the website and Wales Cancer Bank staff can work with researchers to assist with the process. Once the application form is submitted for review the process usually takes 4-6 weeks before a decision is communicated. The length of time to sample supply will then depend upon the number and type of samples and data. A contribution to cost recovery fee is charged for all sample and/or data access.