Tumour banks are structures within hospitals which have a mission to collect and preserve biological samples taken from cancer patients and to make them available to doctors and researchers. As a result of their place at the interface between care and research, the tumour banks play an important role in the fi ght against cancer. This observation has justifi ed the major funding since 2001, made available by the French Ministry of Health’s Department of Hospitalisation and Organisation of Healthcare, which has aimed at strengthening the tumour banks. Today, the French National Cancer Institute, in charge of this mission in the framework of the National Cancer Plan, has undertaken a study of 60 funded establishments in order to have an annual global activity report of hospital-based tumour banks.This fi rst inventory reveals the existence of a considerable storage activity at the national scale, with the declaration of nearly 100,000 new frozen samples in 2005. All types of cancer are covered by the collections, although, for technical reasons, liquid tumours are over-represented. There is also an important recruitment of tumours of the breast, lung and digestive system. These samples are associated with computerised annotations even though there is still some heterogeneity in the types of management software used by the different tumour banks. Research programmes based on the tumoural samples, or their products such as DNA or RNA, represent the principal end-use of this biological material. Future studies will aim to measure improvements in the intrinsic quality of the tumour banks which are moving, in the majority, towards a professionalisation of expertise and an increase in the number of samples preserved in the interest of patient health.