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Last Updated: 09/23/14

Organizational and Operational Aspects of Specimen Resources

Organizational models: types of tissue banks and other tissue resources

Several organizational models exist for tissue banks and other tissue resources.

  • A traditional tissue bank model involves the collection and storage of specimens and associated data at a single central facility.
  • A virtual bank model involves specimens collected and stored locally with the associated specimen data centralized. Requests for specimens are handled through a central coordinating office.
  • A prospective tissue procurement service involves the collection of specimens to meet investigator requests. In this model, most specimens (except for rare specimens) are stored only for limited time periods until they can be distributed to the investigators who requested them.

Sources of Information on how to establish a tissue resource

National Cancer Institute Best Practices (BP)

The current NCI Best Practices does not comprise of detailed laboratory procedures; rather, the document consists of principles by which such procedures should be developed by biospecimen resources. The recommendations contained within this document are intended to be adapted, as appropriate, based on the mission and scientific needs of individual biospecimen resources.

To learn more go to:

ISBER Best Practices for Repositories

ISBER’s Best Practices for Repositories (Best Practices) reflects the collective experience of its members and has received broad input from other repository professionals. Throughout this document effective practices are presented for the management of specimen collections and repositories.

To learn more go to:

College of American Pathologist (CAP) Biorepository Accreditation Program

CAP provides a non-obligatory accreditation program that ensures the quality of biospecimens used for clinical research and patient care. The three-year, peer-based accreditation program is based on adoption of standards through consistent application of best practices and evidence-based standards. The ultimate goal is to strengthen the quality of patient care and ensure consistent, verifiable quality of biospecimens and biorepositories.

To learn more, contact 800-323-4040, ext. 7078 or email

Tissue procurement workshop

The Southern Division of the Cooperative Human Tissue Network (CHTN) sponsors a workshop entitled, "Designing and Maintaining a Tissue Repository" that is usually offered in conjunction with the annual meetings of the International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER).

Katherine C. Sexton
Tissue Procurement Facility, ZRB 449
University of Alabama at Birmingham
3201 First Avenue North
Birmingham, AL 35222
Express mail: 703 South 19th Street, 35294-0007
Phone: (205) 934-6071
FAX: (205) 934-0816
CHTN Web Site:

Examples of NCI Sponsored Specimen Resources

Members of a scientific network: several institutions studying a variety of cancers in different organ sites:

  • Cancer Centers
  • Scientific Program of Research Excellence (SPORES)

Completed specific research projects: specimens are now available for sharing with other investigators:

  • Division of Cancer Control & Population Sciences
  • Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics

Incomplete specific research projects: specimens are only available to investigators in the project:

  • The Cancer Genome Atlas project

Intramural principal established: specimens are used for the investigator’s research and are only available to other researchers for collaboration:

  • Center for Cancer Research