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Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2008 Dec;17(12):3344-50. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0622.

Influence of evolution in tumor biobanking on the interpretation of translational research.

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Tumour Tissue Repository and Deeley Research Center, BC Cancer Agency, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.



Translational cancer research increasingly relies on human tissue biospecimens and this has coincided with a shift in tissue biobanking approach. Newer biobanks (post year 2000) deploy standard operating procedures to reduce variability around biospecimen collection. Because current translational research is based on pre-2000 and post-2000 era biospecimens, we consider whether the collection era may influence gene expression data.


We compared the range of breast tumor collection times from pre-2000 and post-2000 era biobanks and compared estrogen receptor (ER) protein expression with collection time. We then collected 10 breast tumor biospecimens under a standardized protocol and examined whether the expression of c-myc and ER was influenced by storage on ice < or = 24 hours.


The range of collection times achieved at a pre-2000 versus post-2000 era biobank differed. Thirty-two percent of biospecimens were cryopreserved within 30 minutes at the pre-2000 era biobank versus 76% at the post-2000 era biobank. Collection time and ER protein level was inversely correlated (r = -0.19, P = 0.025; n = 137). We observed a wide range in initial c-myc and ER mRNA levels (50- versus 130-fold). Although mRNA levels of both genes declined with increasing collection time, the rate of change differed because c-myc was significantly reduced after 24 hours (mean reduction to 79% of initial) versus ER (94% of initial).


The overall shift in biobanking around the year 2000 is reflected in the ranges of collection times associated with pre-2000 and post-2000 era biobanks. Because collection time can differentially alter gene expression, the biospecimen collection era should be considered in gene expression studies.

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