During an educational workshop held at the Science of Global Prostate Cancer Disparities in Black Men Conference in Nassau, Bahamas in 2012, attendees discussed a range of biobanking and biorepository strategies that might help with collaborative research efforts into the disease.1
Prostate cancer in black men of African origin presents not only a different course of disease and type of tumor, but also inequities in research data.2 Few black men of African origin are enrolled in research programs in developed countries. This skews data collection, meaning that not only is the pathogenesis of their particular form of the disease not studied well, but it also does not appear in significant numbers in diagnostic and drug trials. Furthermore, those living in the developing world face limited clinical options for both treatment and research, meaning that access to research samples from this source is extremely limited.
Global collaboration is therefore vital to provide access to samples from a wider population representative of those facing the risk. Establishing biobanking guidelines is necessary to ensure high-quality sample acquisition for collection of meaningful and representative data. It is also important that this is done with a recognition of differences in societal acceptance and a respect for local culture.
Acknowledging the role of biospecimens and biobank resources in accelerating cancer research globally, the workshop participants focused on steps required to provide access to these facilities in developing countries with high mortality rates due to prostate cancer.
First, the workshop focused on issues holding back development of biorepository and collaborative research facilities in these areas. Noting that although technological advances mean that smaller sample volumes can be used in research, issues such as economics and availability of technology frequently limit specimen collection and storage in these areas. The workshop participants felt that if these logistical challenges could be overcome, it would be feasible to adapt current best practice guidelines developed by organizations such as the National Cancer Institute’s Office of Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research (NCI OBBR) and the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER).
The workshop also highlighted the importance of oversight, governance and adherence to best practices in establishing and operating a biobank for global cancer research. They also noted that trained and experienced personnel should be involved. Their emphasis on standardized operating procedures to ensure sample quality and consistency coincided with an appreciation for low-tech solutions to common biobanking operational problems, tailoring the project to the local environment.
Another aspect of adapting to the local environment considered during the workshop centered on the issue of informed consent from donors. The presentation included discussion on literacy levels and cultural differences in use of consent forms. Research oversight is also frequently under control by institutional review boards; the workshop noted that these may not exist in collaborating countries and that researchers should seek advice locally to maintain compliance within the community.
Furthermore, the participants also noted that legal issues including patents, intellectual property rights and responsibilities to donors vary from country to country, thus complicating global collaboration projects.
In summarizing the issues, the report’s authors, Ragin and Park, conclude that building mutual trust among all participants is key. They feel that this is an important step in establishing global collaborative biobanking, as it can improve representation for a population currently underrepresented in global research efforts to address prostate cancer diagnosis and management.
1. Ragin, C., and Park, J.Y. (2014) “Biospecimens, biobanking and global cancer research collaborations,” ecancer 2014, 8(454), doi: 10.3332/ecancer.2014.454
2. Roberts, R. (2014) “From bench to bedside: The realities of reducing global prostate cancer disparity in black men,” ecancer 2014, 8(458), doi: 10.3332/ecancer.2014.458