What is BWB (Biothèque Wallonie Bruxelles) all about?

What is a Biobank?
In case a doctor suspects one of his/her patients suffer from cancer (or another disease), (s)he might advise for samples to be taken for further analysis in order to determine the precise diagnosis and any treatment necessary. After this essential stage of the patient’s care, unused biological material is sometimes left over. This material is an essential and precious resource for research into cancer or even other diseases. It can be made available to researchers over the world, who study either the development mechanism of cancer or the new treatments available. Residual samples are stored in a biobank in relation with the hospital where the patient is being cared.

Who benefits from it?

The research carried out on this material primarily benefits patients and future patients.It can help improve general understanding of the disease, develop existing treatments or discover new drugs, and also allow for new diagnostic tools to be tested.

Is there complete freedom of choice?

Absolutely, everyone is entirely free to refuse the giving of remaining clinical samples. All the patient needs to do is to notify his/her decision in writing to the doctor or care co-ordinator. Similarly, patients are free at any time to go back on their consent without being required to give a reason or suffering any loss of benefit in terms of subsequent medical treatment. This withdrawal decision applies to any research project initiated after this decision has been taken and notified.

Is all this ethical and legal?

Using and sharing material, and verification and retrospective analysis of clinical data, all comply with strict rules. As with donations of blood, marrow or organs, an Ethics Committee oversees the operations of the - Biobank and research projects. This committee is responsible for ensuring compliance with current Belgian and legal texts, especially those concerning the protection of patient privacy and rights.

Is anonymity guaranteed? What about genetic analysis?

Material stored is always coded so that no personal information is passed on. Researchers in public or private laboratories all sign a strict use contract that ensures preservation of anonymity by prohibiting any attempts at establishing patient identity, including by means of genetic analysis.