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Moving Forward: Biospecimens and Cancer Research

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Published on Dec 21, 2011

Biospecimens are materials taken from the human body, such as tissue, blood, plasma, and urine that can be used for cancer diagnosis and analysis. Doctors and researchers may analyze biospecimens to look for indications of disease in the donor. Biospecimens can confirm whether a disease is present or absent in a particular patient. They also provide other information that may be useful to the physician or a researcher. Each sample may contain DNA, proteins, and other molecules important for understanding disease progression. Biorepositories (or biobanks) are "libraries" where biospecimens are stored and made available for scientists to study for clinical or research purposes. These biospecimens are commonly annotated with information about the patient from whom the biospecimen was taken, including data about their medical conditions and background. There are thousands of biorepositories in the United States, which vary widely by size, the type of biospecimens collected, and purpose. This video explains the the critical importance of biospecimens and biorepositories in cancer research and presents perspectives from cancer patients and survivors, doctors who treat cancer patients (oncologists), researchers as well as drug developers. The lack of standardized, high-quality biospecimens is widely recognized as a significant roadblock to cancer research. The National Cancer Institute (NCI), through its Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (OBBR), is leading a national initiative to systematically address and resolve challenges posted by the limited availability of carefully collected and controlled, high-quality human biospecimens annotated with essential clinical data and properly consented for broad investigational use. OBBR works to support development of a common biorepository infrastructure that promotes resource sharing and team science, in order to facilitate multi-institutional, high throughput genomic and proteomic studies.

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