Translational cancer research is highly dependent of large series of cases including high quality samples and their associated data. Comprehensive Cancer Centers should be involved in networks to enable large-scale multi-center research projects between the centers [Ringborg, U., de Valeriola, D., van Harten, W., Llombart-Bosch, A., Lombardo, C., Nilsson, K., Philip, T., Pierotti, M.A., Riegman, P., Saghatchian, M., Storme, G., Tursz, T., Verellen, D, 2008. Improvement of European translational cancer research. Collaboration between comprehensive cancer centers. Tumori 94, 143-146.]. Combating cancer knows many frontiers. Research is needed for prevention as well as better care for those who have acquired the disease. This implies that human samples for cancer research need to be sourced from distinct forms of biobanking. An easier access to these samples for the scientific community is considered as the main bottleneck for research for health, and biobanks are the most adequate site to try to resolve this issue [Ozols, R.F., Herbst, R.S., Colson, Y.L., Gralow, J., Bonner, J., Curran Jr., W.J., Eisenberg, B.L., Ganz, P.A., Kramer, B.S., Kris, M.G., Markman, M., Mayer, R.J., Raghavan, D., Reaman, G.H., Sawaya, R., Schilsky, R.L., Schuchter, L.M., Sweetenham, J.W., Vahdat, L.T., Winn, R.J., and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 2007. Clinical cancer advances 2006: major research advances in cancer treatment, prevention, and screening: a report from the American Society of Clinical Oncology. J. Clin. Oncol. 25, 146-162.]. However, biobanks should not be considered a static activity. On the contrary, biobanking is a young discipline [Morente, M.M., Fernandez, P.L., de Alava, E. Biobanking: old activity or young discipline? Semin. Diagn. Pathol., in press.], which need continuously evolve according to the permanent development of new techniques and new scientific goals. To accomplish current requirements of the scientific community biobanks need to face some essential challenges including an appropriate design, harmonized and more suitable procedures, and sustainability, all of them in the framework of their ethic, legal and social dimensions. This review therefore presents an overview on these issues, based on the works and discussions of the Marble Arch International Working Group on Biobanking for Biomedical Research, integrated by experts in biobanking from five continents.