The UK’s new archive of blood and tissue samples for use in cancer research will be based in Bishop Stortford, Hertfordshire, after locally-based group Fisher Bioservices won the contract to provide the necessary central repository.

The selection of Fisher BioServices means that onCore UK - a newly-formed charity borne out of a funding partnership with the Department of Health, Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK - can now start collecting and cataloguing samples donated by patients for use in researching the disease.

Brian Clark, chief executive of the charity, said that the move is “the first step towards our goal of speeding up the pace of cancer research in the UK,” while Robert Jones, head of UK operations at Fisher BioServices, claimed the partnership “will provide cancer researchers an unparalleled archive of biomaterials collected, stored and distributed in the highest quality and most regulated manner.”

The use of biological samples donated by patients is fast becoming the cornerstone of cancer research, especially in studies assessing the potential of novel therapies, according to onCore. In order to speed up research, the group says it aims to make available high-quality samples and anonymous information about the patient on a scale “unprecedented” in the country.

Cancer ‘timebomb’

According to CR UK, around 270,000 cases of cancer are diagnosed every year. Although recent figures suggest we are slowly winning the battle against this disease, with overall survival rates almost doubling in the last 30 years in the UK, there is still a long way to go.

To mark the launch of the Cancer Prevention Week (May 21-27), Dr Greg Martin, science and research manager for the World Cancer Research Fund, warned that Britain is facing a cancer timebomb.

He claims that the ageing population and burgeoning levels of obesity means we could see a sharp increase in the number of cancer cases. “People getting fatter will lead to an increase in the number of cancer cases as surely as night follows day. You also have to add into the mix the fact that cancer is largely an older person’s disease, and the UK has an ageing population,” he explained, and warned: “there could be really serious consequences in terms of the number of people developing cancer if people do not act now.”