By Suman Verma
From a historical perspective, there are millions of FFPE tissue blocks in storage and in use today; these range in age from being generated several decades ago to blocks prepared at the time of this writing. Block storage methodologies have typically been comprised of the following, although there are variations on the theme:
This storage process works well for small numbers of samples, but is quickly overrun when thousands of blocks begin to accumulate. The retrieval and return process can be error prone, leading to potential specimen loss, delays in retrieval, and excessive time spent re-cataloging and locating blocks, all translating to patient impacting events. Given today’s patient health care requirements, many FFPE blocks need to be retrieved daily; with the legacy systems described above, biospecimens are not always archived on the same day. Coupled with the constant demand for block retrieval there are cases in which sporadic, manual record keeping is maintained of who a block was sent to or when a block is due to return. In addition, many blocks sent out for clinical trial use can lack traceability for the same reasons.
Recently, an end to end system (Arcos™ Block Management System, Thermo Fisher Scientific Kalamazoo, MI) was developed and implemented in several locations worldwide to address the issues encountered with FFPE block storage, retrieval and restocking. The Arcos system is primarily designed to accurately store, catalog and track FFPE blocks, minimizing/eliminating potential patient impacting events caused by delayed FFPE retrieval and re-archiving events, is 21 CFR Part 11 compliant and eliminates the need to catalog blocks in numerical or similar order.