Biological sample collection, processing, storage and information management

IARC Sci Publ. 2011:(163):23-42.


The collection, processing and storage of biological samples occur in the larger context of organizations known as biological resource centres or biospecimen resources. Biological resource centres are service providers and repositories of living cells, as well as genomes of organisms, archived cells and tissues, and information relating to these materials. The US National Cancer Institute defines a biospecimen resource as a "... collection of human specimens and associated data for research purposes, the physical entity where the collection is stored, and all relevant processes and policies." The complexities involved in proper sample management policies and procedures are often underestimated. Prior to initiating a study that will involve the collection of biological samples, many decisions need to be made that will affect the quality of the samples and the outcome of the study. The appropriate sample type(s) needs to be chosen. The processing protocol that will result in samples of suitable quality for the intended laboratory analyses must be selected from among various possible protocols. Consideration must be given to the proper storage conditions to maintain sample quality until analyses are completed. All of these activities must be monitored and controlled by appropriate sample tracking and laboratory informatics systems. A comprehensive quality management system, with standard operating procedures and other appropriate controls, is necessary to assure that biological samples are of consistent quality and right for the intended analyses and study goals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biological Specimen Banks*
  • Humans
  • Information Management / trends*
  • Research Design*
  • Specimen Handling / methods*
  • Specimen Handling / standards*