Scientific and technological advances in genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics are providing new insight into the cause and treatment of cancer. The analysis of human tumours offers academic and industry researchers a window into the molecular and genetic world of cancer.

Through the analysis of tumours, researchers have learned about the molecular makeup of tumours, discovered biomarkers that are characteristic of tumours and identified genes responsible for specific cancers. This knowledge creates exciting possibilities for the creation of new diagnostic and prognostic tools and for the identification of targets for new drug therapies.

In order for the potential of the omics revolution to be realised, research scientists and clinicians must analyse the molecular makeup of large numbers of human tumour tissues. Although researchers can use models of the disease such as cell lines and animal tumours, at some point it becomes essential to study human tissues to understand how a disease like cancer develops in humans. Thus, researchers require access to collections of well-preserved and well-characterised tumour tissue accompanied by high-quality clinical data.

Biospecimens are the key to the development and testing of next-generation diagnostics and treatments. OTB makes this type of research possible by providing the materials needed to drive high-impact studies.

Core principles

  • Quality – A commitment to standardised best practices, continuous improvement and direct control over every aspect of collection and storage to ensure biospecimens, data and products are of high quality to support the generation of excellent research data.
  • Diversity – Maintain an extensive inventory of cancer disease sites and subtypes and derivative products to support a broad range of cancer research.
  • Integrity – Ethical transparency, accountability and stringent privacy protection measures are in place to protect the patients who participate in the program and ensure that practices and resulting research are at a high ethical and scientific standard.


OTB was launched in 2002 by the Ontario Cancer Research Network, the predecessor of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, in recognition of the growing need for quality human biospecimens for the development of better patient diagnostics and therapies and thus the need for an Ontario provincial biobank. It has been collecting biospecimens from consented patients since September 2004.