The Georgia Cancer Center Biorepository (GCCB) provides a wide range of professional collection, annotation, and storage solutions. This Biorepository is also home to a state-wide resource, the Biorepository Alliance of Georgia for Oncology (BRAG-Onc), which functions to collect samples from 6 participating sites across the State to represent the diversity of cancer patients within the State and to enhance cancer research in Georgia. Over the last 4 years, the Biorepository and BRAG-Onc have provided specimens for over 30 individual research projects and have also supplied samples to The Cancer Genome Atlas (TGCA) project. The NHGRI and NCI launched the full-scale landmark TCGA program, with the goal to perform in-depth molecular analysis and sequencing of 4,000 cancer patients representing the 20 most common cancers. Inclusion in the TCGA program earmarks BRAG-Onc and the GCC Biorepository as meeting the most stringent quality control standards for specimen processing.
The Biorepository collects and stores specimens under standardized conditions with accompanying clinical and demographic information and appropriate patient consent, in compliance with the most current Best Practices for Biorepositories as recommended by NCI’s OBBR and ISBER.
Tissue specimens are fast-frozen in vapor phase liquid nitrogen to preserve their integrity and stored in large cryofreezers at -170 to -190°C. Blood is routinely separated into serum or plasma and buffy coats prior to freezing. Blood derivatives are stored at -70 to -80°C. The freezers are monitored constantly and are connected to an alarm system to ensure that the low temperatures are maintained.
Other methods of preparation and handling (such as fresh tissue or tumor cells for culture) are available by arrangement. A specialized Bone Marrow Repository for hematopoietic malignancies and disorders preserves frozen viable mononuclear cells, enriched by gradient centrifugation. There is also access to normal blood products through our collaboration with the Shepeard Community Blood Center.
The repository acts as a critical bridge between the clinical and research endeavors in advancing personalized medicine.
The collection of specimens, coordinated by the tumor bank, requires the collaboration of many individuals, such as surgical oncologists, surgery staff and pathologists. Most important in this process are the patients who donate specimens for future research. It is an opportunity for patients to contribute to science that may lead to better and earlier cancer detection and treatments. And donating makes use of tissue or other material that is unneeded for diagnosis and that would otherwise be discarded.
The repository collection includes a variety of specimen types, such as tumor tissue and cells, blood and other biofluids as well as normal specimens used as controls. The quality of all specimens is reviewed by a pathologist, and the information is captured in the tumor bank’s database. An imaging system will be used in the future to capture this information.
Human-derived specimens are a very precious resource, and therefore the operations of the tumor bank are overseen by an advisory board, representing Augusta University and other stakeholders, to ensure that the specimens are properly utilized and the privacy of specimen donors is protected.