Creating a Centralized Biospecimen Resource for Cancer Research

About This Grant:

Research demonstrates that early cancer detection increases the chances that treatment will be successful and positively impacts patient outcomes.1 Research centers, including Maine Medical Center Research Institute, are utilizing blood components and body fluids for the investigation of novel cancer biomarkers, but the supply of these samples is inadequate to meet current and future research needs. The MMC BioBank has been distributing excess surgical tumor tissue in support of biomedical research for over 10 years. However, efforts by our BioBank to collect liquid samples from cancer patients have been hampered by insufficient resources, as these collections take place outside of the surgical setting and thus, outside of the BioBank's traditional purview. 

Our proposal thus aims to establish an infrastructure for the collection of liquid samples from cancer patients, not only in the inpatient setting, but also in the outpatient one at the MMC Cancer Institute and at its affiliated practices, such as New England Cancer Specialists (NECS). Once collected, the samples will be stored, inventoried and distributed to investigators using the existing BioBank infrastructure. Because requests for liquid samples from local, regional and national investigators are already commonplace, we expect this service to be financially self-sustaining within one year. Our goal is to collaborate with other Maine hospitals, such as Eastern Maine Medical Center, to expand the availability of these critical samples and thus better serve the needs of the cancer research community.

To achieve this vision, we propose the following specific aims:

Specific Aim 1:

BUILD- Build the infrastructure required to consent, collect and process blood, bone marrow and other liquid samples from the majority of the 2700 new cancer cases managed at MMC and its affiliates each year.

Specific Aim 2:

UTILIZE- Enhance the awareness, access and utilization of the expanded MMC's BioBank inventory by investigators throughout Maine via targeted communication strategies and our unique Research Catalyst Program.

Specific Aim 3:

SUSTAIN- Build on the BioBank's existing network of regional and national partners engaged in cancer research to create a sustainable financial model to support the statewide, long-term use of this new resource.


  1. Over 8,000 Mainers are diagnosed with cancer every year, approximately 490 cases per 100,000 population – which constitutes one the highest age-adjusted cancer incidence rates in the nation.
  2. Research demonstrates that early cancer detection increases the chances that treatment will be successful and that it positively impacts patient outcomes. As such, there is an unmet need for non-invasive tests to diagnose cancer at an early stage and assess its response to treatment. Current cancer detection methods, such as CT scans, X-ray mammography, and colonoscopies, have significant disadvantages, including lack of sensitivity or accuracy, low utilization rates, and/or high cost. In contrast, the ability to use blood and other body fluids for cancer detection holds the promise of being less invasive, more accurate, and less costly. In addition to diagnostic screening, biomarkers are being used in cancer management and surveillance of treatment response.
  3. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the most widely recognized and significant roadblocks to progress in cancer research is the lack of standardized, high-quality biospecimens. Creation of a centralized biorepository of such high-quality biospecimens for cancer research in Maine will markedly facilitate scientific investigations that lead to biomarker discoveries and that improve cancer outcomes and reduce mortality.


Year Grant Title Category Amount Grant Recipient
2016 Maine Lung Cancer Coalition Lung Cancer, Screening $400,000 Maine Medical Center Research Institute
2015 Creating a Centralized Biospecimen Resource for Cancer Research Research $199,830 Maine Medical Center Research Institute
2015 Integrating Personalized Risk Information in Low-Dose CT (LDCT) Screening for Lung Cancer Lung Cancer, Research, Screening $100,000 Maine Medical Center Research Institute
2015 Tumor Registry Electronic Medical Record Linked Data Resource: TREMR Research $191,230 Maine Medical Center Research Institute