Giving blood and tissue samples

This page is about giving blood and tissue samples as part of a trial. There is information about

Blood and tissue samples in cancer research

Blood and body tissue samples are vital for cancer research. Many developments in cancer treatment come from doctors and researchers looking at blood and tumour samples in the laboratory. Researchers call these biosamples and they use them to

  • Find out how cancers develop in order to try and prevent them
  • Find new ways to diagnose cancer
  • Find new ways to treat cancer
  • Develop and test new drugs
  • Try to work out which treatments work for particular groups of patients
  • Find better ways of controlling side effects and symptoms

When samples are collected

Doctors or nurses collect many blood and tissue samples as part of routine diagnosis and treatment. When doctors find and remove a cancer, they can store some of the tumour for research.

People who do not have cancer, or any other illness, may also be asked to donate blood or tissue samples. Researchers can use these to find differences between healthy cells and cancer cells.

Before your doctor or nurse takes a blood or tissue sample for research, they will always ask your permission and ask you to sign a form. Before you do this, they should give you written information about what will happen to your sample. They should also answer any questions you have.

Types of body tissue sample

Many types of tissue sample are used in research. These include

  • Small samples of tumours from biopsies or surgery
  • Blood samples
  • Fluids removed using a needle and syringe from body cavities, joints, abscesses or cysts
  • Body fluids, such as urine, spit (sputum), saliva and tears
  • Cells from skin, hair, nails, the inside of the mouth, the eye, or the neck of the womb (cervix)

What happens to your sample

Researchers store samples in laboratories called biobanks. These are like libraries. They keep the samples with some details of your medical history, but no personal details. A computer stores this information, so that researchers can find the samples they need.

The Human Tissue Authority produces guidelines for the safe storage of tissue samples. They also advise on ensuring confidentiality for people who donate tissue. You can read about their work and about donating tissue for research on the Human Tissue Authority website.

Related information

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