The 1st Puerto Rico Biobanking Workshop took place on August 20st, 2014 in the Auditorium of the Comprehensive
Cancer Center of the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus in San Juan Puerto Rico. The program
for this 1-day, live workshop included lectures by three biobanking experts, followed by presentations from existing
biobanks in Puerto Rico and audience discussion. The need for increasing biobanking expertise in Puerto Rico stems from
the fact that Hispanics in general are underrepresented in the biobanks in existence in the US, which limits the research
conducted specifically to understand the molecular differences in cancer cells compared to other better studied populations.
In turn, this lack of information impairs the development of better diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for our
Dr. James Robb, M.D., F.C.A.P., consulting pathologist to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Office of Biorepositories
and Biospecimen Research (OBBR), opened the workshop with a discussion on the basic aspects of the science
of biobanking (e.g., what is a biobank; its goals and objectives; protocols and procedures) in his talk addressing the importance
of banking tissues for advancing biomedical research. Next, Dr. Gustavo Stefanoff, from the Cancer Institutes Network
of Latin America (RINC by its name in Spanish), explained the mission, objectives, and structure of the Network of
Latin-American and Caribbean Biobanks (REBLAC by its name in Spanish), which despite limited resources and many
challenges, currently accrue high quality human tissue specimens and data to support cancer research in the region. Dr.
Robert Hunter-Mellado, Professor of Internal Medicine, Universidad Central del Caribe, followed with an examination of
the ethical and regulatory aspects of biobanking tissues for future research, including informed consent of subjects; protection
of human subjects rights; and balancing risks and benefit ratios. In the afternoon, the directors of existing biobanks
in Puerto Rico (the Puerto Rico Biobank, the Comprehensive Cancer Center biobank, and an HIV-focused biobank at
Universidad Central del Caribe) presented their experiences and challenges with establishing biobanks for research in
Puerto Rico. In sum, this workshop presented opportunities to share knowledge in the science of biobanking, for further
training, and of networking among the participants (34 from 4 different institutions), which will strengthen the collaborative
links between investigators studying cancer in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the US.