Ireland’s research community is small and fragmented and molecular research requires large scale sample collections. It is imperative that fresh, frozen and paraffin-embedded cancer tissue and blood samples are acquired prospectively with patient consent in the main cancer hospitals, using the same procedures and database. Samples and data should be managed in linked biobanks and, together with authorised research use of archival pre-2018 FFPE tissue, subsequently released for approved basic and translational cancer research.
An Irish Biobank Network will enhance Ireland’s national cancer strategy. Shared online access to samples and data for potential projects will help connect hospitals and focus on patient care rather than on competing institutions. Other advantages: research efficiency and research quality, enhanced sample quality, facilitation of international collaborations, coordinated, fair access to samples, molecular studies on samples from clinical trials patients, and wider benefits to the economy due to job creation and increased industry R & D.
Examples of advances in patient care, derived from biobanked samples are: Glivec for patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia and GIST (a rare gastrointestinal malignancy), anti-CD20 antibody treatment for malignant lymphoma, and Herceptin for aggressive breast cancer. Each of these treatments has significantly prolonged quality of life, by applying logically the knowledge of molecular cell processes to develop innovative, selective and in many cases, non-toxic cancer treatment.