Background: Advances in translational research have led to the need for well characterized biospecimens for research. The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank is an initiative which collects annotated datasets relevant to human mesothelioma to develop an enterprising biospecimen resource to fulfill researchers' need.
Methods: The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank architecture is based on three major components: (a) common data elements (based on College of American Pathologists protocol and National North American Association of Central Cancer Registries standards), (b) clinical and epidemiologic data annotation, and (c) data query tools. These tools work interoperably to standardize the entire process of annotation. The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank tool is based upon the caTISSUE Clinical Annotation Engine, developed by the University of Pittsburgh in cooperation with the Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid (caBIG, see http://cabig.nci.nih.gov). This application provides a web-based system for annotating, importing and searching mesothelioma cases. The underlying information model is constructed utilizing Unified Modeling Language class diagrams, hierarchical relationships and Enterprise Architect software.
Result: The database provides researchers real-time access to richly annotated specimens and integral information related to mesothelioma. The data disclosed is tightly regulated depending upon users' authorization and depending on the participating institute that is amenable to the local Institutional Review Board and regulation committee reviews.
Conclusion: The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank currently has over 600 annotated cases available for researchers that include paraffin embedded tissues, tissue microarrays, serum and genomic DNA. The National Mesothelioma Virtual Bank is a virtual biospecimen registry with robust translational biomedical informatics support to facilitate basic science, clinical, and translational research. Furthermore, it protects patient privacy by disclosing only de-identified datasets to assure that biospecimens can be made accessible to researchers.