Accuracy of Molecular Data Generated with FFPE Biospecimens: Lessons from the Literature
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Cancer Res 75 (8): 1541-1547 (April 2015)

Formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded (FFPE) tissue biospecimens are a valuable resource for molecular cancer research. Although much can be gained from their use, it remains unclear whether the genomic and expression profiles obtained from FFPE biospecimens accurately reflect the physiologic condition of the patient from which they were procured, or if such profiles are confounded by biologic effects from formalin fixation and processing. To assess the physiologic accuracy of genomic and expression data generated with FFPE specimens, we surveyed the literature for articles investigating genomic and expression endpoints in case-matched FFPE and fresh or frozen human biospecimens using the National Cancer Institute's Biospecimen Research Database (http://biospecimens.cancer.gov/brd). Results of the survey revealed that the level of concordance between differentially preserved biospecimens varied among analytical parameters and platforms but also among reports, genes/transcripts of interest, and tumor status. The identified analytical techniques and parameters that resulted in strong correlations between FFPE and frozen biospecimens may provide guidance when optimizing molecular protocols for FFPE use; however, discrepancies reported for similar assays also illustrate the importance of validating protocols optimized for use with FFPE specimens with a case-matched fresh or frozen cohort for each platform, gene or transcript, and FFPE processing regime. On the basis of evidence published to date, validation of analytical parameters with a properly handled frozen cohort is necessary to ensure a high degree of concordance and confidence in the results obtained with FFPE biospecimens.
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