Many in the scientific community consider the California Teacher’s Study (CTS) to be one of the most promising studies into the environmental and behavioral causes of breast cancer.
CTS began in 1995 with more than 133,000 female public school employees answering questions about their health and daily lives. Since then, it has collected important information on what factors put women at risk for cancer.
Now, CTS is entering a new phase, where 30,000 participants have been asked to provide blood or saliva samples so biomarkers (including both genetic factors and blood-based proteins) can be used to further cancer research.
As every biobanker knows, however, each large-scale biosample collection effort has its own unique set of challenges. In this case, the CTS team has to coordinate sample collection between multiple facilities, manage appointments for all participants and painstakingly track samples through every step of the process, and manage massive quantities of data in a short time frame.
To help clear these hurdles, the CTS team first developed a cloud-based platform for data management that included an innovative mobile application to upload data directly to the cloud and also organize efforts between phlebotomists, researchers and biobank employees. Team members can use the app to access information on patients, generate recruitment letters, schedule appointments and perform a variety of other tasks in a standardized and secure way.
What’s more, the app even helps phlebotomists with blood collection in the field. How? Well, patients complete a questionnaire and sign a consent form, both of which are linked to a unique QR/barcode on the blood sample. Then, after packaging the blood sample in a Styrofoam container for overnight shipping, the phlebotomist uses the tablet to scan the shipping label. The app application confirms that all steps of the biosample collection are completed in a consistent and well-documented manner.
From California, the biosamples are shipped overnight to Maryland, where the CTS’s third-party biobank is located. Best practices helped iron out some of the kinks in this transport process. For instance, blood samples initially arrived in Maryland at a higher than optimal temperature. Shipping blood in “Credo Boxes” fixed this problem and ensured samples arrived at the repository under optimal conditions.