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The Gundersen Foundation BioBank is a tissue repository established in 2008 to collect and analyze biospecimens. It is funded by the Gundersen Medical Foundation.

The BioBank currently houses biospecimens collected from over 20,000 cancer patients. All biospecimens are linked to de-identified pathology and clinical reports. Biospecimens are available to collaborating academic scientists free of charge, and to industrial partners on a fee-for-service basis. The BioBank is a member of the Tissue Source Site for The Cancer Genome Atlas program. All biospecimen collection and dissemination protocols are approved by The Gundersen Human Subjects Committee/Institutional Review Board and are in full compliance with National Cancer Institute Best Practices for Biospecimen Resources.

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The BioBank is composed of four arms:

Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor tissue

The Gundersen Human Subjects Committee/Institutional Review Board (HSC/IRB) has approved that after 20-year storage, formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tumors are transferred to the BioBank from the clinical archive of Gundersen Health System.

The BioBank houses fixed and embedded tumor samples excised between 1983 and 1990 from over 20,000 individual cancer patients.

All tumor specimens are fixed for at least 24 hours in 10% neutral-buffered formalin prior to embedding in paraffin.

All specimens are linked to anonymous clinical and pathology records.

Past accrual rates indicate that each year the BioBank will acquire samples from at least 1,000 additional cancer cases.

FFPE tumors are sectioned and stained with hematoxylin and eosin. These sections are then used by a board-certified pathologist to confirm and/or update the original diagnosis.

Successful immunohistochemical analysis has been performed using a range of rabbit polyclonal and mouse monoclonal primary antibodies. Isotype-matched non-immune control antibodies exhibit invariable negative staining.

Published Use of BioBank Tumor Specimens

Fu Q, Cash SE, Andersen JJ, Kennedy CR, Oldenburg DG, Zander VB, Foley GR, Shelley CS. CD43 in the nucleus and cytoplasm of lung cancer is a potential therapeutic target. Int J Cancer 2013 Apr;132(8): 1761-1770. Read the study

Minimally ischemic fresh biospecimens

A critical arm of the Gundersen Foundation BioBank is the collection and storage of biospecimens freshly isolated from cancer patients and control volunteers. The protocols utilized are designed to result in minimal ischemia times in order to preserve labile biomarkers such as microRNAs and post-translational protein modifications.

Solid-tumor cold-ischemia times range from four to 20 minutes and are documented.

Patient-matched plasma and viable leukocytes are available for all solid tumor specimens.

All specimens are stored permanently in liquid nitrogen.

All specimens are linked to anonymous clinical and pathology records.

Collection protocols are currently active for:

  • leukemia
  • lymphoma
  • lung cancers
  • breast cancers
  • normal breast tissue
  • colon, thyroid, rectal, and esophageal cancers
  • kidney, prostate, testicular, and bladder cancers
  • gynecological cancers
  • dermatological cancers
  • head and neck cancers
  • connective tissue cancers (sarcomas)
  • neurological cancers

Malignant leukocytes collected from leukemia patients and normal leukocytes collected from solid tumor patients are isolated by ficoll-gradient centrifugation and frozen in 90% fetal bovine serum and 10% dimethyl sulphoxide. This procedure results in the banking of viable leukocytes that when thawed can be used for functional studies. The fetal bovine serum used for freezing contains less than 0.06 endotoxin units per milliliter, ensuring minimal leukocyte activation.


Gundersen BioBank provides a searchable database containing the clinical and pathology metrics associated with both the archival and fresh material of the BioBank. The database both provides the means of managing the BioBank and also represents a resource, analogous to the Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) Program, that can be used for in silico clinical research.

The development of the Gundersen bioinformatics program builds on the expertise of the Gundersen Cancer Registry. This registry was established in 1968 to fulfill the requirements of an Approved Cancer Program of the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. More than 8,000 cancer patients are followed at Gundersen each year. The Cancer Registry collects information including the occurrence and type of cancers, extent of disease at the time of diagnosis, and the modes and outcomes of treatment. This information is also submitted to the National Cancer Data Base.

Research collaborations

Both the fresh and archival samples acquired by the BioBank are currently being used by researchers at the Gundersen Medical Foundation to identify new cancer diagnostic markers and therapeutic targets.

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