Biobanking Services

Prospective Specimen Collection / Processing

Princess Margaret Cancer Biobank is committed to facilitating the unique needs of researchers locally, and globally by accommodating study specific harvesting, processing, and storage protocols along with the facilities usual banking procedures from consented patients. We are dedicated to providing biospecimens with the highest tissue integrity and ethical sourcing. The following overview describes the types of prospective specimen collection and distribution.

Surgically Resected Tissue

Princess Margaret Cancer Biobank coordinates the distribution of freshly acquired biospecimens received straight from the OR to our surgical pathology room. Our highly trained pathology staff harvest and section tissue specimens from specific surgical cases in accordance with pre-approved study specific banking protocols. Our dedicated coordinators collect, transport, notify and distribute the appropriate samples to the studies’ satisfaction.

Tissue samples delivered to our surgical pathology department are harvested meticulously by our highly trained Pathology Assistants, who prepare, identify, and collect tumours as well as normal and adjacent tissue, for cryopreservation. These samples are snap frozen in liquid nitrogen within 30 mins of receipt at the surgical pathology lab to protect tissue integrity.

Harvested biospecimens can be preserved and banked as a Formalin Fixed and Paraffin Embedded (FFPE) tissue block. Fresh Tissue samples are fixed in formalin within 30 mins of receipt at the surgical pathology lab to protect tissue integrity. The samples are stored at ambient temperature, making samples highly accessible. FFPE material can be sectioned and/or cut as curls for downstream RNA/DNA analysis or stained for various purposes, including immunohistochemistry.

Surgeons over a table

Biopsy Cores

Princess Margaret Cancer Biobank facilitates the banking, processing, and storage of tissue samples collected through biopsies. Biopsy cores are collected during the patient’s scheduled biopsy procedures. The fresh cores are placed immediately on dry ice and transferred to our liquid nitrogen facility for long term storage.

Biopsy samples are collected from consented patients and transported to the surgical pathology lab, where prepped molds are ready for OCT embedding. The structural integrity of the fragile tissue is preserved via effective freezing techniques.


Biofluid samples are delivered to our processing facilities within hours of their collection. Our processing team provides de-identified sample IDs and distributes fresh whole samples upon study request.

Biofluid samples are furthered processed, or banked whole, following standard operating protocols. The samples are then placed in long term or short-term storage until request.

Our processing team receives a multitude of biofluid samples that can be further processed to specific compartmentalized components, such as:

Whole Blood



  • Plasma
  • Serum
  • Buffy Coat
  • Peripheral Blood Mononuclear cells
  • Most abundant immune cells
  • Whole Urine
  • Processed Urine
  • Frozen Urine Cell Pellet
  • Frozen feces

Archival Biospecimen Inventory

Princess Margaret Cancer Biobank currently houses frozen and paraffin-embedded biospecimen samples from various tissue sites/pathologies, including: tumours, normal tissue and/or susceptive tissue along with associated pathology annotation data. Biospecimen samples are preserved using best practices and high-quality standards.

  • Bladder
  • Breast
  • Central Nervous System
  • Cervical
  • Colorectal, including Anal
  • Endocrine, including Thyroid
  • Esophageal
  • Gastric
  • Gastrointestinal including Stromal
  • Gross Metastatic Disease
  • Head & Neck
  • Hepatic, Biliary Tree
  • Lung
  • Mesothelioma
  • Neuroendocrine
  • Lymphoma, Hodgkin’s
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin’s
  • Ovarian, Fallopian or Peritoneal
  • Pancreatic
  • Prostate
  • Renal & Ureter
  • Sarcoma, Bone
  • Sarcoma, Soft Tissue
  • Skin, Melanoma
  • Skin, Non-Melanomas
  • Small Intestine
  • Testicular
  • Urethral or Penile
  • Uterine
  • Vulva, Vagina
  • Other

Clinical Trial Support

A dedicated team of biobankers work to coordinate the retrieval and processing of specialized tissue requests for interventional studies given their time-sensitive nature. Our team works alongside UHN research teams to efficiently bank, retrieve and deliver required material to the unique studies.

PMCB ensures all studies have been approved by the institution’s Research Ethics Board (REB) and are reviewed and approved by PMCB’s Sample Steering Committee.