NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
November 20, 2007 • Volume 4 / Number 30 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

The information and links on this page are no longer being updated and are provided for reference purposes only.

A National Treasury of Biological Specimens

Drug Discovery and Development at NCI-Frederick

NCI-Frederick provides services for several drug discovery and development programs that are sponsored by NCI's Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. These programs are the backbone of NCI's drug development pipeline. The repositories mentioned in this article help to support these programs, but there are many more discovery and development resources and services that can be provided to researchers around the world. More information about these programs and services can be found at

In addition to housing some of the most advanced cancer research programs and tools in the country, NCI-Frederick houses one of the largest biobanks, comprising five distinct repositories.

The largest of these is the Central Repository. It holds more than 10 million biological samples for researchers who work at NCI-Frederick, as well as intramural researchers from the main NIH campus in Bethesda and from other federal agencies. The repository is operated by Fisher BioServices, which subcontracts with SAIC-Frederick. The largest proportion of the repository comes from population science research studies in support of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.

"We're not just a repository," explains Dr. Kathleen Groover, who oversees this repository for Fisher. "We investigate things that other biobanks may not have the financial resources, ability, or desire to do," she says. "Whatever we learn, we share with the larger community." Dr. Groover, for example, has an article in press on how compressor cycles in mechanical freezers can indicate potential equipment failure.

The Natural Products Repository contains more than 75,000 plant and marine specimens collected from around the globe through contracts with nonprofit groups and agreements with countries from which the samples are procured. These samples are available to government, academic, and industry researchers through materials transfer agreements that protect the rights of the source country, should the work lead to a commercial application.

An offshoot of early Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis (DCTD) drug screening programs, the Tumor Bank Repository includes more than 50 thousand vials of rodent tumor fragments, human tumor cell lines, tumor tissue in liquid suspension, ascites, and yeast, as well as four types of tissue microarray slides. These are shared with researchers in the government, academic institutions, and private companies worldwide.

The Biological Resources Branch Repository is also open primarily to nonprofit and academic researchers. It includes cytokines, antibodies, and other biological response modifiers, as well as imaging reagents and reference standards, most of which have been donated by companies or researchers that retired their programs but did not want the materials to go to waste. "All of these are available to researchers at no cost through our automated online ordering system," says Dr. Rosemarie Aurigemma, who oversees the repository and is a program director in the Biological Resources Branch in NCI's DCTD. "All we ask is that they pay for shipping."

The last repository was developed with advice from NCI's Mouse Models of Human Cancer Consortium. The NCI Mouse Repository maintains more than 100 strains of genetically engineered mice and strains used to derive cancer models. These mice are available to researchers at academic, nonprofit, and commercial institutions around the world for only the cost of shipping. The repository also accepts new models as they are developed, so they can be archived and shared. The NCI Mouse Repository is a member of an international network of repositories that develops best practices for strain maintenance and cryo-preservation, and minimizes duplication of mouse stocks.

Repositories at NCI-Frederick use state-of-the-art equipment and information technology. But even so, there are some limits on what they can hold. "Everything that comes to the repositories here fits in with the FFRDC mission," notes Dr. Mark Cosentino, who oversees the Central Repository for SAIC-Frederick. "It's not our objective to compete with private industry. Rather, we accept and archive samples that private biobanks are not well suited to handle."