Ontario Tumour Bank

The Ontario Tumour Bank provides cancer researchers with a diverse selection of high-quality tumour samples and derivatives (such as DNA), comprehensively annotated with de-identified clinical data.

About Our resource

Ontario Tumour Bank (OTB) is a valuable solution for cancer researchers who often face challenges in obtaining the quality and number of biospecimens required for their research.

Without OTB as a resource, many researchers would work within their own hospitals to try to develop bespoke collection protocols de-novo, which is often inefficient, costly, and lacking in sufficient quality measures to ensure fit-for-purpose and reproducible, publishable data. Others lack the network and expertise to acquire specimens altogether and turn to the study of models as an alternative, at the cost of cutting-edge patient relevant research. OTB collects, processes, and stores research-grade materials to have at-the-ready for research today - and in doing so, OTB accelerates cancer research for the development of better patient diagnostics and therapies. OTB has been making this this type of research possible by collecting and dispensing the biospecimens needed for high-impact studies since 2004. To date, it has accrued over 21,000 patients and dispensed over 42,000 samples to researchers.

Operating at four hospitals and cancer centres across Ontario (London Health Sciences Centre, Kingston Health Sciences Centre, The Ottawa Hospital/OHRI, and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton), OTB is made possible through an extensive network of collaboration. Working with patients, pathologists, medical oncologists, surgeons and other hospital personnel, specially trained staff members obtain patient consent, collect tissues and annotate with comprehensive clinical information about each donor and the corresponding biospecimens. A unique governance model ensures that OTB operates to the highest scientific and ethical standards.

The high-quality biospecimens, derivatives and clinical data are an important resource for scientists engaged in translational research who are developing better diagnostic tools and new drug therapies. Researchers can depend on OTB to provide products and services of high Quality, Diversity, and Integrity.



OTB’s primary goal is to provide access to high quality biospecimens to academic researchers as part of OICR’s mission to accelerate translational research across Ontario, Canada and beyond.

Notable Achievements

  • Excellent accrual rate: OTB has collected over 189,000 biospecimens from over 21,000 patients (~1400 patients/year), making it a sizable cancer-specific resource.

  • OTB’s operations are extremely lean and rely on a small staff.

  • Impressive distribution rate: patient cases have been accessed, either in whole or in part, over 7500 times in support of ~350 unique research projects for the release of over 42,000 sample aliquots.

  • Diverse projects supported: It has supported mega-projects such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), disease-specific cohorts such as The Canadian Ovarian Experimental Unified Resource (COEUR), along with numerous local research projects, and over the next several years, OTB is expanding support to OCTANE and other prospective tissue collections in addition to these types of projects.

  • In kind support: Roughly $4.2M of in-kind support (total) has been provided to Ontario Academic researchers through subsidized access fees.

  • Published impact: Numerous publications have arisen using OTB biospecimens and data (158 known), including 10 high impact publications in Nature over recent years. This number is known to be an under-representation of outcome research as (a) many researchers neglect to report publications back to OTB (a phenomenon experienced across biobanks worldwide) and (b) industry researchers generally do not publish.

  • Knowledge dissemination and leadership: OTB presents its model and shares expertise at a national and international level (i.e., as a founding member of the Canadian Tissue Repository Network (CTRNet), and as a leader at the International Society of Biological and Environmental Repositories (ISBER,, Monique Albert is the ISBER Secretary on the Board of Directors and co-chaired the 2017 annual symposium (

Our Services and Expertise

The Ontario Tumour Bank (OTB) provides biospecimen solutions for cancer research. Academic and industry-based researchers in Canada and internationally can count on the Ontario Tumour Bank to provide tissue and blood samples of high quality, diversity and integrity. Four academic teaching hospitals across Ontario currently collect samples and data from participating donors for the OTB. OTB distinctively features direct control over every aspect of collection, storage and access to an extensive inventory of cancer biospecimens with rich, de-identified, clinical data. Access procedures for researchers are streamlined while ensuring high ethical standards and protection of donor privacy and confidentiality.

  1. Sizeable inventory (~21,000 consented patients): with a high consent rate (~98%), over 21,000 patients have donated their materials and data to the program at a rate of ~1400 new cases per year.

  2. Diverse disease sites (n = 33): 33 cancer disease organ sites are in the inventory.

  3. Research-ready sample prep types: solid tissue is processed into LN2 frozen and FFPE blocks; matching blood is processed into buffy coat, plasma, and cell-free plasma.

  4. Tissue microarrays (n = 6): tissue microarrays are readily available for selected disease types.

  5. Histology: cases are pathology verified; every case has an H&E slide scanned and stored in Aperio for remote viewing by the researcher for further verification.

  6. Comprehensive data collection: nearly 400 clinical data fields are collected per patient, including availability of long-term follow-up data.

  7. On-demand services: Researchers may request samples to be processed into derivatives, such as DNA, RNA, and tissue microarrays on demand. Processing time is very fast (~2 weeks, depending on the size of the request).

Collaborate with Us

Our Services and Expertise are widely available to researchers in Canada and internationally.

Our Team

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Dr. John Bartlett

  • Provincial Principal Investigator
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Monique Albert

  • Director