8 December 2009
The cancer biobanking organisation onCore UK was established with a stated mission to inform, coordinate and develop cancer biobanking to enable research towards the discovery and development of new interventions against cancer. This involved two key roles: promotion of cancer biobanking, and serving as an active national cancer biobank resource.
Following a decision made earlier this year, onCore UK will no longer undertake the latter role. In a public statement explaining the decision, onCore UK says that ‘a standardised national approach has been difficult to achieve’ for biosample collection and that ‘the needs for biobanking can be effectively fulfilled by local biobank activity’. Instead, the organisation will focus solely on the promotion of cancer biobanking in the research and health service communities, subject to Charity Commission approval since onCore is a charitable body.
OnCore is funded by the Department of Health (England), the Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK. It is not clear to what extent this strategic decision to cease biobanking may have been influenced by a harsher economic climate; the statement that biobanking needs can be effectively met by local biobanks seems somewhat at odds with the founding principles, which set out to provide high-quality cancer tissue samples to support large-scale research studies on the basis that individual biobanks and collections did not allow this.
Now, onCore must dispose of the tissue samples currently held in the biobank facility and is seeking to distribute them to ensure that they can benefit medical research. It is advertising the availability of a collection of 300,000 human tissue samples from various parts of the body and including all major diseases, as well as healthy tissue samples, collected over much of the twentieth century up to 1978. Applications are invited from bona fide researchers for ethically approved research purposes (see website for details). Fees will be charged ‘to allow onCore UK to recover some of the costs of storing the collection’.