Cancer Biomarker
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Cancer Biomarker

Learn more about Cancer biomarkers, Cancer biomarker detection and future of cancer biomarkers

What is a cancer biomarker?

                A cancer biomarker is a biological factor which can be quantitatively measured to yield cancer related patient information.  This information includes cancer predisposition, state of cancerous growth, and early detection.  These biomarkers can be located in the genetic code, plasma, and other bodily fluids of patients.  Because they are present in both healthy and infected patients, it is important to take base level readings of the biomarkers which are then closely monitored.  The presence of cancerous cells will cause fluctuations in these levels, which are the key to diagnosis.

How are cancer biomarkers detected?

                Cancer biomarkers can be detected using various absorbance and fluorescence measuring techniques.  Currently, most of these tests must be performed by clinicians, although home tests are being developed.  One method of detection is the ELISA method, or Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.  ELISA is used to detect antigen or antibody presence and is commonly utilized for diagnosis.  An unknown antigen concentration is adhered to the surface of a microtiter plate and combined with an antibody, which is then bound to an enzyme.  After both reactions take place, a solution is added which reacts with the enzyme to emit a detectable signal.  An automated detection system currently being researched is the nanoDLSA.  The nanoDLSA, developed by Qun Huo et al., is a dynamic light scattering system which measures biomarker levels for cancer detection.  It utilizes a pair of gold nanoparticle probes mixed with a sample solution.  The nanoparticle aggregation, caused by antigen-antibody binding, is measured to yield the cancer marker antigen concentration.  Currently, it has shown promise when compared to ELISA.

What are some current cancer biomarkers?

                One commonly used serum biomarker is PSA, or prostate specific antigen.  PSA is monitored to screen for prostate issues, specifically prostate cancer.  It is also present in the body under normal conditions.  Because PSA concentrations can become elevated due to other factors, such as prostate gland infections, treatments are never made based on a PSA increase.  However, abnormal levels are an indicator for further testing.

                A new and exciting discovery is the anterior gradient protein 2 (ARG2) biomarker.  This protein is present in the blood of patients with ovarian cancer and can be utilized as an early detection tool.  ARG2 concentrations can be monitored using an ELISA test and any abnormalities can be flagged for further investigation.  This diagnostic tool can be further improved when accompanied by the monitoring of CA125, another ovarian cancer biomarker.

What does future hold for cancer biomarkers?

                Foundation Medicine is a company looking to utilize the wide array of identified cancer genetics in order to develop a comprehensive analysis of cancer samples.  Currently, there are a limited amount of effective targeted cancer treatments which recognize a single genetic mutation.  Foundation Medicine believes techniques can be greatly enhanced if drugs are tailored to target a combination of genetic mutations, rather than a single aberration.  The first step towards accomplishing this goal is in the creation of a cancer sample analysis tool.  They are developing such a tool that identifies genetic mutations within a sample in order to be used for personalized drug development.  This tool will be used by a clinician and will yield in-depth information concerning a patient’s cancer that will be useful in diagnosis and treatment planning.  Current difficulties in developing such a tool include sample preservation, cost efficiency, and ease of use.  However, if this tool is successfully developed, the results will be monumental.

This video highlights the key to cancer biomarker discovery and benefits


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