Researchers to gain access to CONCERT’s Biobank database

By Linda Music

Work is currently underway to give cancer researchers access to CONCERT’S specimen database providing them with a catalogue of specimens they can choose from.

The database will allow them to search for specimens including cancer tissue, whole blood, plasma, serum and blood cells. The biobank also has the capacity to collect other specimens including cerebrospinal fluid, brain surgery washings (known as Cavitron ultrasonic surgical aspirator fluid), urine, saliva, faeces and semen.

With over 30,000 specimens, donated by over 2,000 people since 2012, the biobank is an invaluable resource for cancer researchers.

“Currently, CONCERT biobank receives enquiries from researchers wanting to know what specimens we have available so that they can match it to their research project,” Biobank Manager, Joseph Po, explains.

“The database will remove this step as researchers will be able to search the database directly to find what they’re looking for.”

Researchers will be able to search for the biospecimen data they require such as the volume/size of specimens and the anatomic location of collection e.g. thyroid, rectum, brain. Clinical data such as cancer type, tumour pathology, demographic data and type of surgery performed will also be able to be searched.

“Whilst researchers can search for patient data such as smoking history, alcohol history, height, weight, and history of cancer, the database will ensure complete patient confidentiality as all data in the end-user catalogue will be de-identified.”

Once they find what they’re after, researchers will be able to order the specimens by submitting a formal biospecimen request form and relevant documentation to the biobank.

Setting up the database is a mammoth task. While new incoming sample data is entered into the purpose-built system as samples come in, the biggest part of the job is entering the old sample legacy dataset into the system.

“This a lengthy process, not only because of the sheer volume of data that needs to be entered, but also because all data fields have to be perfectly consistent with the database formatting.

“We’ve built this database from scratch which, although challenging, has also been extremely rewarding as we’re starting to see the team’s hard work come to fruition,” says Joseph.

It is anticipated the database will be live towards the end of 2020.