Biobanking Initiative

We need your help to secure funding for a new biobanking initiative. The Medical Research Council (MRC), a government agency, has called for applications to fund biobank initiatives. To show the MRC just how important this is for the brain tumour community we want you to show your support.

Why do we want to set this up?

As part of our support for Dying Matters Awareness week in May 2016, we paid tribute to Tasha's legacy as a Young Ambassador and the donation of her brain for medical research into finding a cure.

A key to unlocking progress in research into brain tumours is through centralised access to biobanks (a.k.a. tissue banks) containing patients' tumour samples. We need to radically increase the number and frequency of tissue samples banked for research to improve outcomes. This comprehensive resource will enable key questions to be answered sooner.

Currently some adult tumour samples are stored in local tissue banks across the UK resulting in small, fragmented collections. Researchers are required to apply to each bank separately in order to get sufficient samples to study individual tumour types, especially the rarer ones.

What are we proposing?

The overarching aim is to accelerate research by providing tumour tissue along with information about how the tumour reacted to any treatments as well as molecular biomarkers. We propose that the National Brain Biobank Consortium will create a standardised national brain tumour tissue resource for the scientific community.

Each year more than 9000 people in the UK are diagnosed with adult primary brain tumours (figures from 2011) of which ~45% were malignant. Cerebral metastases (metastasis) account for approximately 16,000 secondary brain tumours per year in the UK. Therefore, the potential total of 25,000 primary and secondary brain tumour cases per year would be eligible for tumour biobanking.

The National Brain Tumour Biobank Consortium of 8 existing UK Brain Tumour Banks will improve ongoing banking of samples. Centralised co-ordination of the tumour specimens will streamline access to tumours with important scientific and clinical information for scientists and researchers and will support applications for future grant funding for basic science and translational research.

This proposal represents a low risk strategy for providing instant access to 1000s of fully consented brain tumour specimens with appropriate ethical and Human Tissue Authority approvals, which are immediately available to researchers.

Our proposal is similar to other national initiatives such as the successful Canadian Virtual Brain Tumour Bank (CVBTB) and French Brain Tumor Data Bank.

How can you help?

To help convince the MRC of the need for a brain tumour bank network we want to show them that the community as a whole is supportive of our venture.

Let us know you support us.

What is biobanking?

Tumour biobanking, or tumour tissue banking, is when you store tumour to use later on.

The way that the tumour sample is stored varies depending on what facilities are available and what will be done with the sample later.


This is usually 'Formalin Fixed, Paraffin Embedded' or FFPE. The sample is covered with the chemical formalin which makes everything inside the sample stay in its original position and stops the sample degrading. Next the sample is submerged into a block of paraffin wax to support it. These FFPE blocks are usually used to cut the tumour into very thin slices which can be put on a glass slide, stained with special dyes and used to look at the shape, number and type of cells in the tumour.

These histology slides provide a lot of the information that pathologists use to diagnose what type of brain tumour someone has. They are also often the samples that are used to form a second opinion or when assessing eligibility for a clinical trial.

Snap frozen

Snap frozen tissue is put as quickly as possible in very cold temperatures, if using dry ice it is approximately -80°C or if using liquid nitrogen the temperature will be -196°C. The cold temperature stops naturally occurring enzymes in the tissue from destroying DNA, RNA and proteins.

These samples can be used like the fixed tissue in slices with more advanced labelling dyes, or they can be used in larger amounts to find changes in DNA, RNA and proteins that may be different from non-tumour samples.


Culturing cells is the process of growing them in a laboratory. The cells will be submerged in 'media', a cocktail supplying all the nutrients the cells need to grow in a flask or a petri dish. Depending on the cell type it may stick to the bottom of the flask, grow in suspension/floating in the media or under the right conditions may grow in a sphere shape.

Researchers use these cells for lots of different experiments: to learn more about the cells; to see how they grow in different conditions i.e. low oxygen; to test new treatments; or even to print them in 3-dimensional models of brain tumours with normal brain cells.


Cryopreserved samples go through a special process that means they can be frozen and stored in liquid nitrogen at -196°C but then revived to grow in a laboratory.

Cryopreserved cells are often used when scientists want to test different treatments on specific tumour types. These frozen cells can also be shipped to other researchers more easily than live cultured cells.