The first virtual biobank dedicated to prostate cancer research has been launched today by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI).

The UK Prostate Cancer Sample Collection Database will house details of around 10,000 biological samples taken from men in the UK with and without prostate cancer.

The virtual biobank will also hold other materials that will be useful for research, including DNA, RNA, blood and urine, increasing the total to around 100,000 samples.

Data on prostate cancer risk, how cancers have responded to treatment and the molecular make-up of the cancers will be anonymised and available for scientists to use in collaborative studies.

The database has been developed by The ProMPT (Prostate cancer mechanisms of progressions and treatment) Collaborative and the Southern Prostate Cancer Collaborative, which are funded by NCRI partners.

Additional sample databases from prostate researchers outside the Collaboratives are being added to make the virtual biobank an essential resource for all scientists working to turn prostate cancer discoveries in the lab into better treatments for patients.

Dr Hayley Whitaker, a prostate cancer researcher from Cancer Research UK’s Cambridge Research Institute who helped develop the database, said: “One of the biggest challenges in prostate cancer treatment is identifying the men with aggressive prostate cancers who should be treated, as opposed to others with non-aggressive tumours who could be monitored.

“This new biobank holds both clinical and molecular data, which could help us find a marker to help doctors make this difficult decision.”

Biobank lead developer Dr Daniel Brewer from The Institute of Cancer Research said: “Until now, UK prostate cancer scientists have generally been limited to conducting research on patient samples they could acquire themselves or through collaborations they forged themselves. This biobank will help improve scientists’ access to precious samples and hence increase the accuracy of results and make new discoveries more likely.”

Dr Jane Cope, director of the NCRI, said: “This is a really important resource for prostate cancer researchers. The new database will help ensure that scientists are able to make best use of samples donated by patients, avoiding waste and speeding up progress in understanding the disease and improving treatment.”


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The database can be found here.

The database will be linked to ONIX, The NCRI’s ONcology Information eXchange (ONIX) – a free-to-use portal that connects many of the main public sources of cancer research data. ONIX can be found here.

All contributors welcome enquiries about access to samples and the formation of research collaborations. Anyone wishing to add a collection to the database can contact the coordinators via the website. All samples are collected ethically and in accordance with the Human Tissue Act.

The UK Prostate Cancer Sample Collection Database is funded by NCRI partners. The ProMPT (Prostate cancer mechanisms of progressions and treatment) Collaborative and the Southern Prostate Cancer Collaborative are funded by NCRI partners with additional funds coming from the Department of Health and the Medical Research Council. Their work is supported and underpinned by the ProtecT Trial. The ProtecT Trial is currently the largest randomised trial investigating the effectiveness of treatment for clinically localised prostate cancer ever carried out. It Is funded by the Department of Health through its NIHR / HTA programme (96/20/6; 96/20/99).