The Belgian Virtual Tumourbank
In March 2008 the Belgian National Cancer Plan (NCP) was launched by Mrs. L. Onkelinx, Federal Minister of Social affairs and Public Health. To promote translational cancer research and the collaboration between different cancer researchers in Belgium, one of the initiatives of the NCP (initiative 27) was the creation of a Belgian Virtual Tumourbank. For this purpose a total annual budget of 3 million euro was released. The criteria for recognition were stated in the royal decree of September 20 2009. Currently 11 hospitals, among which all major Belgian university hospitals, are recognized and financed by this initiative. These hospitals all have a local biobank, which stores human residual material (including tumour samples).
The aim of the Belgian Virtual Tumourbank is to centralize the data of residual human tumour samples in a database. The coded version of this central database will be made accessible to research groups, which allows them to perform queries, based on specific search criteria, and trace the samples they're interested in to the different local biobanks. This increased availability of tumour samples facilitates the identification of new diagnostic and prognostic (bio)markers and the development of new therapies, which comes to the benefit of all cancer patients.
The creation of the Belgian Virtual Tumourbank is being managed under the responsibility of a steering committee. The members of this steering committee are representatives of all hospitals involved (including pathologists or hematologists, responsible for the activities of the local biobanks; radiotherapists and oncologists), the Belgian Cancer Registry (BCR), the Federal Ministry of Health and the Belgian Cancer Center. The BCR coordinates these activities and is responsible for the hosting of the central database, including all IT needs that are implied.