Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Specimen Resource Locator (SRL)?

The SRL is a publicly searchable web site where researchers can locate biospecimen resources that may have human specimens needed for their investigational use. It is a database that contains basic information about biospecimen collections as well as contact information and URL links for each resource.

Which resources can participate in the Specimen Resource Locator?

The SRL is open to NCI and non-NCI funded resources. Privately owned and international resources are exempt from participating.

Who may view and search the SRL?

The SRL is available publicly on the Internet, so anyone may use it to search for biospecimen resources. However each resource lists only specimens they are willing to share. Resources indicate if there is a collaboration and/or fee requirement to obtain their specimens.

Is there a fee to obtain specimens?

Each resource establishes if there a fee to obtain their specimens.

Is there a shipping fee?

Each resource indicates if there is a shipping fee.

Who runs the SRL?

The SRL is administered by the NCI Cancer Diagnosis Program, Pathology Investigation and Resources Branch. The SRL is hosted and maintained by Information Management Services, Inc.

How can a biospecimen resource participate?

  1. Browse to the SRL.
  2. Click the "How to Add a Collection" button on the right in the "Quick Links" box.
  3. Complete the short electronic form.
  4. Once approved, you will receive a user account to login to the SRL.
  5. Once you login to the SRL you may complete a profile page and enter your collections.

How do I enter a biospecimen collection into the SRL?

You may enter the collections electronically via a drop down menu, or complete and upload a CSV file. In the near future the SRL will provide an API method for collection entry as well.

What data are available about the biospecimens?

The SRL does not contain Protected Health Information (PHI). The SRL specimen information contains only descriptive, non-specific information (i.e., "metadata").

Does the NCI manage the specimen collections included in the SRL?

No. The specimen collections and datasets listed in the SRL remain under the control of the resource owner. The resource owner makes all decisions regarding the process of sharing of the specimens or data. The NCI is not responsible for the quality of biospecimens and data provided by participating resources.

How do I search the SRL?

Browse to the SRL's Search page. The search may be performed using the following criteria: organ site, histology/tumor type, specimen type, preservation method, specimen annotation, your organization, and number of specimens desired.

I have identified specimens in the SRL that might be useful for my research. What do I do next?

You may contact the resource (posted in the search results) with further queries.

How do I modify my added specimen collections?

Resource participants may login to the SRL and click a button to edit their resource and collection information and save the updates.

How often am I required to update the SRL?

There is no update requirement except that the NCI recommends updating at least once per year and when there are major changes to the specimen collections or resource contacts.

I have submitted information to the SRL, but I now need to take it down. Is this possible?

Resource participants may login to the SRL and click a button to remove their resource information, or they may contact the NCI Tissue Expediter for assistance with removing the information.

If my resource is contacted about my specimen collections, do I have to agree to distribute the specimens?

No. Every decision regarding access to your specimen collections is based on your resource access policies. You must ensure that any use is in keeping with the consent permissions and restrictions of the research participants that contributed to the resource.

Do I have to pay to participate in the SRL?

No. There is no charge to contribute biospecimen collections and data or to search the SRL. However, there may be service fees to recover costs related to collection or sharing of the resource which are up to the resource owner.

I have unanswered questions about the SRL. How do I get an answer?

The SRL provides a form to contact the NCI Tissue Expediter for further assistance.

Who is the Tissue Expediter and what is his role?

The Tissue Expediter is a scientist who can assist in the event of an unsuccessful search in the SRL. His contact information is posted in the SRL. Also the Expediter has knowledge of other potential resources and collaborations that maybe helpful to investigators using the SRL.