Frequently asked questions on the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank


We aim to approve applications for tissue four weeks from the submission date. Please see our Tissue Access Policy in the resources section for further details.

We aim to dispatch materials four weeks after application approval and the signing of the Material Transfer Agreement. Bespoke material, for example a custom TMA, may take longer to produce.

Staff in the Tissue Bank Team at Breast Cancer Now will see any application for samples that is submitted. These details will be kept confidential. Tissue Bank centre staff will be given information as needed and only to process the request. If any details of your application are particularly sensitive please advise us accordingly. 

The Access Committee members see each application for the samples from the Tissue Bank for approval before samples are approved for release. The nature of their role means that they will need to see full details of any proposed experimental methods and any raw data for the proposed project. The members of these committees are independent of the charity, but sign a confidentiality agreement which prevents them from disclosing any information they learn about in their role reviewing applications. 

We are open to applications from all researchers in the UK and Ireland based in academic institutions. We are now taking applications from international scientists. 

The Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) is a legal agreement between the applicant and the Breast Cancer Now Tissue Bank that stipulates the conditions upon which we supply the tissue to the applicant. The MTA will be sent to you at the start of the application process. Your legal or contracts team will need to agree and sign the MTA before tissue can be dispatched. 

We share the titles of research projects that have had their applications for samples from the Tissue Bank approved in our communications. We also share the name of the applicant and their institution. 
In addition we write a short lay-accessible summary of each successful application for samples from the Tissue Bank to demonstrate the research the Bank enables. Before this is shared externally to Breast Cancer Now, the applicant gets to approve the lay summary. 
If you do not wish for your project title to be shared or a short lay-accessible summary of your project to be written then let us know. 

All prospectively collected material is donated following informed consent being given. Consent can be withdrawn at any time and processes are in place to ensure samples are removed from the collection, should consent be withdrawn. Our core sites that dispatch material to researchers have a Research Tissue Bank ethics approval.

Each Tissue Bank centre is licensed by the Human Tissue Authority. All materials for the Tissue Bank are collected, stored, processed and dispatched according to agreed Standard Operating Procedures conforming to Human Tissue Authority guidelines and Good Laboratory and Clinical Practice. Only data which are pseudonymised (or link-anonymised) are held in the Tissue Bank. This means that individuals cannot be identified through the data or material in the Tissue Bank. A very limited number of qualified individuals in each Tissue Bank centre are able to link the information in the Tissue Bank back to the identity of the donor. Procedures are in place to ensure this link remains confidential.

We are open to discussions with commercial organisations to help us understand potential requirements and to shape our policies and procedures accordingly. Any commercial applications to the Bank would be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

We follow the progress of the researchers who have applied for tissue from the Tissue Bank. The titles of all the studies our tissue has been granted access for are listed here. A list of the research papers related to the Tissue Bank, including studies that have used material from the Bank, are available in the resources section

Patients are at the heart of what we do. We ensure that each application for tissue has been reviewed by somebody who has lived with or is living with breast cancer to check the relevance of the proposed study to people affected by the condition. So that patients can review each application, we require a lay summary. We also use the lay summaries to communicate with our supporters about the research that tissue from the Bank is being used for. 

Our Gap Analysis, published in 2008, asked 56 of the world's leading breast cancer scientists about the biggest gaps preventing them from advancing their research. Overwhelmingly, the answer was 'easy access to more and better quality tissue samples taken from women with cancer.' Because it will take research further, faster, money invested in a national Tissue Bank is an effective and efficient use of our resources. 

While other charities fund or conduct research into all forms of cancer, Breast Cancer Now focus solely on breast cancer. This means the research we fund is not competing for resources against other cancers. We are also, as an independent funder of research, uniquely placed to deliver this.