The development of inexpensive and user-friendly molecular analysis tools, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), has facilitated the use of tumor markers to diagnose, assess prognosis and finally, select a suitable cancer treatment.
Image Credit: B Medical Systems
To accurately diagnose and give a prognosis of many different diseases, including cancers, maintaining the integrity of biomarkers during their processing and storage is of critical importance. Freezing procedures are used to arrest the degradation of biomarkers used for the identification of these diseases to safely store samples for research or clinical use.
The long-term stability of these molecules, however, depends on their long-term storage conditions as provided by specialized equipment depending on the storage temperatures required. Ultra-low temperature storage is often used to safely store important cancer biomarkers in fluid, cell, and tissue biospecimens.
Following recent breakthroughs in practical applications of molecular diagnostics, analyzing frozen tissue and body fluid samples has become standard practice for suspected cancers, which allows for the detection of cancer-associated biological molecules - commonly known as biomarkers.
In today’s scientific research field, an accurate assessment of biomarkers in a biospecimen is considered essential for making an accurate diagnosis. The key biological features of the sample must, therefore, be maintained during storage and processing, as these biologicals contain vital molecules required for a variety of tests which can degrade at certain temperatures and over time.
Reducing the proteins’ activity by decreasing the temperature is a mechanism that has now been used for decades to reliably maintain biospecimens because the activity of these molecules is dependent on the dynamics between the molecules and the ambient temperature.
Biomarker testing in oncology identifies proteins, genes and other substances, all of which can reveal information about a cancer, given that each cancer displays a different pattern of the aforementioned substances.
The data can then be used in a number of different ways: to diagnose or classify the cancer, to estimate the prognosis, or to select an appropriate treatment. Two groups are created from the tumor markers: those found in tissues and circulating tumor markers found in body fluids.
Tumor tissue (or cell) markers
As it offers high-quality nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) and proteins for the testing procedures, ultra-low temperature frozen tissue is used for cancer biomarker testing.
However, it must be noted that the suitability of tissue biospecimens for biomarker testing depends on how the biospecimens are stored and processed, but as a general rule, the equipment of choice for reliably storing these samples is ultra-low freezers.
Circulating tumor markers
A certain amount of tumor fragments is released into the peritumoral area. These fragments may be proteins, nucleic acids, individual malignant cells, or clusters. These molecules can be found in multiple body fluids, including saliva, urine, blood and serum, which can therefore be used as tumor indicators.
This is why blood plasma is analyzed to find these biomarkers. Plasma storage conditions are thus highly significant pre-analytical factors that can influence circulating tumor marker analysis outcomes. These samples are typically stored at temperatures ranging from -80 °C to -20 °C, with a better sample quality offered over time by the more rigid temperatures.
Modern cancer research facilitated by reliable Ultra-Low Freezers
The storage of samples in cancer research is made possible by Ultra-Low Freezers: equipment that is vital when it comes to maintaining the quality and stability of biomarkers. When selecting ultra-low freezers to buy and use, the reliability and performance of these units should be carefully considered.
The varying set points that are offered can help medical professionals choose the right storage temperature depending on the type of biomarkers being frozen and the length of the storage required.
It is crucial for Ultra-Low Freezers to maintain a uniform temperature inside their cabinets to best maintain the samples, while safety even during adverse events is ensured by superior door opening recovery (DoR) and hold over times. Compliance with regulations that govern the production of quality medical devices is ensured by certifications such as the EU MDR.
Along with 24/7 real-time monitoring systems, these ensure that specimens are always stored in the most suitable and optimal conditions. Energy-efficient operations and green refrigerants will also help laboratories achieve considerable sustainability goals.
Generally, within cancer biomarker testing, specimens stored at ultra-low temperatures are preferred over other types due to the fact that most of these biomarkers (like protein molecules and nucleic acids) are prone to degradation due to a variety of factors. Furthermore, biospecimens also contain degradative molecules, the activities of which are greatly influenced by temperature.
Appropriate storage temperatures that render such enzymes inactive must be chosen to preserve the biomarkers as a result. It has been demonstrated by various studies that long-term storage at temperatures between −70 °C or −80 °C can be effective if biospecimens are used largely for DNA and protein analysis.
For this reason, reliable Ultra-Low Freezers should be used to store these delicate samples: researchers can use them to store their biologicals for extended periods of time by providing temperature flexibility and sample safety.
Ultra-Low Freezers that use natural green refrigerants and that have all the required certifications should therefore be prioritized to always ensure the safety of the samples.
About B Medical Systems S.à r.l
B Medical Systems S.à r.l (formely Dometic/Electrolux) is a global manufacturer and distributor of medical cold chain solutions. Based in Hosingen, Luxembourg, the company was founded in 1979, when WHO approached the Swedish manufacturing giant Electrolux to provide a solution to safely store and transport vaccines around the world. Across the 3 major business portfolios of Medical Refrigeration, Blood Management Solutions, and Vaccine Cold Chain, the company currently offers 100+ models. B Medical Systems’ major products include Laboratory Refrigerators, Laboratory Freezers, Pharmacy Refrigerators, Ultra-Low Freezers, Plasma Freezers, Contact Shock Freezers, Vaccine Refrigerators (Ice-Lined Refrigerators and Solar Direct Drive Refrigerators), and Transport Boxes. All products have integrated 24/7 temperature monitoring capabilities that further ensure that these products offer the highest level of safety and reliability.
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