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The Promise of Tumor Markers - page 2

What is the availability of tumor markers?

The use of some tumor markers is considered standard care in the cancer care community, while others are used less frequently.


This image depicts patent filings for biomarker research by cancer type.


Image courtesy of Insight Pharma Reports

Health insurance companies may or may not provide coverage for tumor marker tests. Ask your oncologist about the use of tumor markers for your diagnosis, and how markers are combined with other strategies for diagnosis and monitoring of cancer.

What is the future for tumor markers?

Research and clinical experience have revealed that testing a single protein or other substance in people may not be the most reliable marker of disease. Other research approaches may determine better tumor markers.

There are not only many elements but also many technologies that need to be verified and standardized. Many researchers are working to move this work into the clinic as soon as possible.

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This image depicts the very complicated process of biomarker discovery.
Image courtesy of Oncology Biomarker News


Genetic Markers

Research is continuing in the investigation of the use of genetic markers to detect cancer. Since most cancer cells have changes in their DNA, studying patterns of DNA changes through genomics research may reveal improved tumor markers.

Protein Patterns

Instead of just one protein, proteomic research assessing patterns in proteins can allow doctors to test thousands of proteins at once, which may reveal the groups of the most common proteins associated with different types of cancer. It is hoped that future research will reveal reliable tumor markers that can be used as a cancer screening blood test. The tumor markers would be found only in people with cancer and would reveal the cancer type, amount in the body, and best treatment.



The National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer has released a special feature paper titled Nanotechnology-Based Assays for Validating Protein Biomarkers. As the paper states, nanotechnology offers some unique diagnostic capabilities for developing highly sensitive and selective assays.

The paper gives some fascinating examples of nanotechnology being used to improve the specificity and sensitivity of assays, in the case of the already commonly used PSA (see image below).


Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute


Drug Development

Biomarkers are becoming increasingly crucial components of the drug development process. The pharmacology industry is beginning to recognize that most drugs work in only a subset of the patient treatment population.

Industry also recognizes that if drugs can be tailored for the right patient population, not only can the clinical trials to test the drug be smaller, more efficient and cheaper, but a premium price can be charged for a drug that is much more likely to work in the patients who receive it.

Most large pharmaceutical companies, and indeed smaller biotech companies, have embraced a biomarker approach to drug development - particularly in oncology.





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