As LIMS have transformed from simple sample inventory systems into comprehensive lab informatics solutions, they’ve come to occupy a key role in research & clinical decision-making. The reason this shift has occurred is obvious: the LIMS is where all of the data resides…and data is mission-critical for making well-informed decisions.
One field in which we’ve seen this develop is cancer research.
Cancer – from research to diagnosis to treatment – is a field driven by the risks of time. Time-to-diagnosis. Time-to-treatment.
“In breast cancer, for example, if a patient is diagnosed while the cancer is at a localized stage, the five-year survival rate is 98%. That number drops to 15% if the disease is diagnosed at stage IV.”
Having data from disparate sources – instrumentation, databases, samples – all together on one platform streamlines operations and gets researchers or clinicians faster access to potentially health-impacting information. The bottom line is cancer research depends on a collaborative, compliant, and productive laboratory environment supported by a robust informatics platform.
What are some key considerations for labs?
- Comprehensive support for biorepository operations (e.g., specimen procurement, quality control, annotation of collected tissues).
- Acceleration of R&D through robust tissue curation.
- Full compliance with GLP, GCP, 21 CFR Part 11, Annex 11, HIPAA, IRB, and other industry standards and regulations.
- Maximizing the use of resources to improve ROI.
- Enhanced sharing and collaboration with cross-system data, and seamless integration with external systems.
The Cancer Research LIMS
When it comes to using a LIMS, cancer labs have many of the same needs as other labs. But they also have very specific workflows which must be supported, and these can be complex.
LabVantage worked closely with the Knight Cancer Institute Biolibrary at Oregon Health & Science University to address a previous LIMS customization during deployment of LabVantage 8:
OHSU BioLibrary leaders decided to remove a customization they had made to leverage the out-of-the-box capability for assigning samples to different studies. This involved structural, user workflow, and data changes, which they described as ‘a huge undertaking.’ “Our (custom) workflow was not the best solution,” Roesler said. “Samples would always have a generic ‘OHSU BioLibrary’ study attached to them… but worst of all, users from other studies wouldn’t have access to the sample data during ad hoc queries – without giving those users access to the entire OHSU BioLibrary department. In LabVantage 8, by adopting out-of-the-box Change Study functionality, we would be able to follow our same workflow, but correctly represent a sample’s status and ownership within the system.” [Read the Knight Cancer Institute Biolibrary at Oregon Health & Science University case study here.]
To address the highly-specific, task-oriented needs of cancer centers and CROs, labs need a LIMS with certain purpose-built capabilities. These capabilities allow researchers & clinicians to leverage lab informatics to:
- maximize the value of research.
- speed drugs to market.
- shorten time-to-diagnosis.
- shorten time-to-treatment.
Key Capabilities of a Cancer Research LIMS
- Robust Curation
Cancer researchers need a state-of-the-art LIMS platform that will support tissue & sample procurement, quality control and annotation – and follow specific Internal Review Board (IRB) approved protocols. Ideally, a LIMS will offer flexible, adaptive, and protocol-specific procurement to establish well-characterized specimens for the biorepository.
- Effortless Collaboration & Sharing
Better, more efficient information management fosters knowledge sharing, promotion of research findings, and best use of specimen resources. A lab’s LIMS needs to manage comprehensive data across varied scientific disciplines and facilities while tracking workflows. Sample submission processes should allow investigators to easily transmit data, reports and results to researchers.
- Comprehensive Systems Integration
Not a new topic for the LabVantage blog, complex instrument integration is crucial for today’s cancer research lab. Labs are often an evolving hodgepodge of instruments and technologies, including legacy systems. A LIMS must be easily configured to quickly introduce new platform technologies. LabVantage, for example, supports workflow tracking and troubleshooting by integrating with various data analysis tools. With complex scientific experiments and processes, it is important that interfaces conform to industry data exchange and integration standards.
- Better Resource Utilization
Labs struggle to improve operational efficiency over instrumentation, manpower and consumable scheduling. Resource utilization has become something of a holy grail in lab management circles. How can a lab best assign resources to maximize productivity? LIMS features such as LabVantage’s Work Assignment & Planning module (Link https://www.labvantage.com/work-assignment-and-planning/) can be used to streamline management and task assignment planning, ensuring labs are able to deliver potentially higher volumes and faster testing throughputs.
- Worry-Free Compliance
Compliance is a top concern in every cancer laboratory today. Ideally, the lab’s LIMS will fully integrate with EMR, EHR and pathology systems, and meet HL7 standards for patient care. Instrument maintenance and analyst certification needs to be fully supported to satisfy industry regulations. Practices such as consent management for tissue procurement must meet HIPAA requirements, and tissue acquisition & distribution must adhere to IRB protocols.
LabVantage has a proven track record helping cancer centers and research institutes, both inside and outside the US National Cancer Institute community. Learn more >