Newsletter December 2019


In March 2008, the nationwide virtual tumourbank project was launched by the Belgian Minister of Health, Ms. Laurette Onkelinx (initiative 27 of the Belgian Cancer Plan). The Belgian Virtual Tumourbank (BVT network) encompasses the tumour biobanks from eleven Belgian university hospitals (click here for the list) that collect and store residual human tumour samples locally. In order to facilitate the search for tumour samples scattered among different Belgian institutions, data collected at sample level is made available for researchers via the online BVT catalogue (BVTc) application. A high quality of the data on the tumour sample requested by scientists for research in oncology is guaranteed by automatic and manual controls performed by the BVT project team at the Belgian Cancer Registry.



Each year, about 340 children and 180 adolescents in Belgium face the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Childhood cancer comprises less than 1% of the total cancer burden. The BVT catalogue can facilitate the search for tumour samples scattered among different local biobanks, especially for less common cancers such as childhood cancers. If you want to know if the specific samples for your research are available in our catalogue, please request full access so you can browse freely through all available sample data and locate the matching samples for your study!




A close collaboration between the Belgian Society of Paediatric Haematology Oncology (BSPHO) and the Belgian Cancer Registry resulted in a recent publication 'Cancer in children and adolescents – Belgium 2004-2016'. The study describes 13 consecutive years of incidence data for Belgium, including survival data up to 5 (and if possible 10) years after diagnosis. In the publication as well as in this newsletter, the tumours are classified according to the International Classification of Childhood Cancer (ICCC-3)1,2. As cancer is a rare disease in children and adolescents, analyses are based on small numbers.

1 Steliarova-Foucher E, Stiller C, Lacour B, Kaatsch P. International Classification of Childhood Cancer. Cancer 2005;103:1457-67

2 National Cancer Institute. International Classification of Childhood Cancer(ICCC) Recode ICD-O-3/WHO 2008.



In total, 95,199 registrations were available in the BVT catalogue at the moment of selection (September 2019). Based on the age criteria and taking all types of samples into account, 2,988 registrations from 1,555 patients could be retrieved in the BVTc. The BVT catalogue contains 1,928 registrations from 1,016 patients below 15 years of age and 1,060 registrations from 539 patients between 15 and 19 years. Slightly more registrations originate from boys (55.3%) than girls (44.7%). This is in line with the publication of the Belgian Cancer Registry where slightly more diagnoses are registered in boys (54%) than in girls (46%) when all malignancies are combined.


Table 1: Overview of the tumour types of childhood cancer samples in the BVTc



The most common tumour types of childhood cancer samples present in the BVT catalogue are lymphomas (II) and central nervous system tumours (III). All tumour types of the ICCC-3 classification are available except retinoblastomas (V). Samples from hepatic tumours (VII), neuroblastomas (IV) and renal tumours (VI) are mainly originating from children; with only a few samples of adolescents.


Figure 1: Overview of other available materials (beside tumour tissue) stored at the local biobanks for all childhood samples


For 79.9% of the registrations, only residual tumour tissue is stored. For some patients, also additional types of material are stored at the local biobanks and registered in the BVT catalogue. The most common types are corresponding normal tissue (8.7%) and DNA (5.5%). Blood (1.8%), plasma (1.7%) and serum (1.7%) are also available in some local biobanks. No buffy coats or urine samples of children and adolescents are registered in the BVT catalogue (figure 1).

As far as the conservation is concerned, 72.0% of the childhood samples is stored at -80°C, while 26.7% is included in paraffin blocks and 1.3% is stored in liquid nitrogen.




The Belgian Virtual Tumourbank team presented a poster at the BACR annual meeting (1st February 2019, Antwerp) and at the Europe Biobank Week (8-11th October 2019, Lübeck, Germany) in the category "Quality Assessment and Management of Data". A paper on the dataflow and quality controls of the Belgian Virtual Tumourbank is published by Frontiers in Medicine.



Flyers on the BVT project have been distributed in 2019 at the Belgian Week of Gastroenterology (20-22nd February, Antwerp), BSMO annual meeting (22-23rd February, Liège), OncoPoint meeting (20th March, Gent), Oncoforum (7th June, Leuven) and the Europe Biobank Week (8-11th October, Lübeck, Germany).



 Please let us know if you are aware of upcoming meetings where the BVT project can be presented or if you would like to receive BVT flyers for distribution in your institution.



For information on sample availability, click here.

To gain full access to the online BVT catalogue, please follow the procedure indicated here.



For further information:   or