Frequently Asked Questions



WHAT STANDARDS and protocols guide biospecimen collections in Canada? 

Canadian Tissue Repository Network 

WHAT RESOURCES for quality management, best practices and standards guide biospecimen collections outside of Canada?

International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories

Health Biorepositories and Biospecimen Research Branch National Cancer Institute

European Research Infrastructure for Biobanking BBMRI-ERIC

WHAT ETHICAL guidelines guide human research in Canada? 

Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans TCPS2 2022

I AM a researcher or staff member at BC Cancer, where do I find more information about institution-specific research ethics requirements? 

BC Cancer Research Ethics 

WHICH ETHICS board reviews the BBRS?

UBC BC Cancer Research Ethics Board reviews the BBRS activities annually.

WHAT ETHICS education has BBRS staff received?

All members of the BBRS have completed:

  • the Canadian TCPS2 Ethics course (Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans)

  • institutional courses related to privacy & confidentiality & conflict of interest and depending on specific roles institutional courses related to Biosafety, Unconscious Bias, San'yas Indigenous Cultural Safety training program and Positive Space training.

  • Essentials of Biobanking Course

IN ORDER to collaborate with a Canadian researcher or get samples from the BBRS, I need to have my research project reviewed by an ethics committee that considers research issues from a Canadian perspective. 

The ethics committee must:

  • include a ‘Canadian panel’ in order to ensure that Canadian privacy laws and TCPSII are considered 
  • have a current Federal Wide Assurance (i.e. be listed in the USA OHRP register) 

Contact the independent ethics committee directly to ensure it  meets these criteria.

WHERE CAN I find biobanking standard operating procedures (SOPs) such as those used by the BBRS?

Biobanking SOP templates like the ones used by the BBRS can be found at: 

Canadian Tissue Repository Network SOPs 

Biobank Resource Centre

WHERE CAN I find education related to biospecimen collections?

Please see biospecimen education resources:

Biobank Resource Centre

WHERE CAN I find information about biobank information management?

Advanced Tissue Management Software (ATiM) is available. 

WHERE CAN I publish or review research on biobanking and biospecimen science?

The International Society for Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER) society is a forum for this kind of information and a good resource for information and research on biobanking is the official journal of the society; Biopreservation and Biobanking.

DOES THE BBRS have a plan of action in case funding runs out or there is a need to make a change to the way it operates (a legacy plan)?

Yes. The BBRS has a specific legacy policy to describe processes to be followed in the event that the BBRS enters a phase of impending biobank closure or experiences a significant change at an operational level.

DOES THE BBRS take in other biobank collections? 

Yes. The BBRS has a specific legacy policy to describe the processes to be followed in the event that representatives of another biobank approach the BBRS to consider absorbing their collection into the BBRS.


HOW ARE blood biospecimens processed and stored?

Blood is processed according to BBRS standard operating procedure(s) with processing and storage occurring as soon as possible from the time of the blood draw. Plasma, buffy coat, and serum blood fractions are stored within -800C ultra-low temperature electric freezers or in vapour phase liquid nitrogen freezers.

HOW ARE frozen tissue biospecimens obtained and stored?

Tissue biospecimens are collected according to BBRS standard operating procedure(s) and biospecimens are collected after surgical resection and flash-frozen at the earliest opportunity after any required clinical processes. The frozen biospecimens are stored in vapour phase liquid nitrogen freezers.

HOW ARE samples fixed? What type of fixative?

Fixed samples are preserved in formalin following routine clinical protocols. Clinical formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissues are utilized following formal procedures to obtain access to materials for research purposes.

CAN I confirm histology before I request a sample?

All BBRS cases have been reviewed and histology confirmed by a pathologist.

For each frozen tissue block the BBRS creates an H&E slide which is available to researchers who wish to confirm histology of the biospecimen as part of the biospecimen selection process.

HOW IS data transferred from the BBRS to a researcher?

Data is shared electronically and all shared data is de-identified.


WHAT IF I need more biospecimens that I originally requested?

Researchers requesting additional samples from their initial application must submit a formal request addressing the need and justification for additional samples and may require additional review by the BBRS access committee. Additional evidence of an approved REB amendment that describes this additional request may also be required.

MAY I use left-over biospecimens in another project?

Sometimes there are materials left-over from a research project that may be regarded as potentially useful in a second project by the same researcher. However, because this is a new project, the researcher will need to submit a new proposal and valid ethics approval letter for the new project to the BBRS.

CAN I transfer biospecimens and/or data to an external collaborator?

Yes, under certain conditions. Collaborators at institutions external to yours will not be covered under your research ethics approval and will be required to submit their own. A separate material transfer agreement will be used specific to the nature of the collaborator relationship.

CAN I transfer biospecimens and/or data to a third-party service provider?

Yes, under certain conditions. Third parties, such as ‘collaborators’, as opposed to ‘service providers’ are viewed differently. A material transfer agreement (MTA), which describes the specific to nature of the third-party relationship, will need to be created prior to the release of biospecimens and data. It is important to note: no biospecimens may be sold or distributed to third parties for the purpose of sale.

CAN I use the biospecimens for purposes other than those stated in the original request?

No. The biospecimens must be used for the specific research project they were requested and approved for.

WHAT HAPPENS if a participant decides to withdraw from the BBRS?

If a participant no longer wants their tissue and data retained by the BBRS any remaining biospecimens in the BBRS inventory will be destroyed along with any paper and electronic data that accompany it. No further information will be collected. Participants are made aware during the informed consent discussion that biospecimens or data that have already been distributed to researchers cannot be recalled.

DO I need to acknowledge the BBRS in publications?

Yes. As stated in the Material Transfer Agreement, the TTR must be acknowledged in all publications and presentations of studies utilizing the TTR materials (biospecimens and data). A copy of all publications and/or abstracts of presentations should be provided to the TTR. Researchers are required to use the following wording: “This study was supported by the BC Cancer – Tumour Tissue Repository, Victoria, BC, a member of the Canadian Tissue Repository Network.”


WHAT COURIERS are used to ship biospecimens?

Physical materials are shipped to researchers using professional courier services. The BBRS will consider working with a researcher’s preferred courier.

WHO PAYS for the shipping?

The recipient researcher is responsible for all shipping preparation charges and courier fees. The BBRS can bill recipient directly using the recipient courier account. If no recipient courier account exists the BBRS will invoice for courier charges following the shipment receipt.


Still have questions?

Please use the contact form to submit your question(s). Your question(s) will be triaged to the appropriate BBRS staff member and response will be within 3 business days.

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