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Electrophoresis. 2011 Apr;32(9):967-75. doi: 10.1002/elps.201000588. Epub 2011 Mar 30.

Cancer biomarker discovery: Opportunities and pitfalls in analytical methods.

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Laboratory of Proteomics and Analytical Technologies, Advanced Technology Program, SAIC-Frederick, NCI-Frederick, 1050 Boyles Street, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


Many diseases result in specific and characteristic changes in the chemical and biochemical profiles of biological fluids and tissues prior to development of clinical symptoms. These changes are often useful diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. Identifying biomarkers that can be used for the early detection of cancer will result in more efficient treatments, reduction in suffering, and lower mortality rates. An ideal screening test should be non-invasive with high sensitivity and specificity. Proteomic and metabolomic analyses of biological samples can reveal changes in abundance levels of metabolites and proteins that when validated and confirmed through clinical trials can function as clinical tests for early detection, diagnosis, monitoring disease progression, and predicting therapeutic response. While the past decade has seen great advancements in proteomics and metabolomics research producing potential biomarkers for cancer, most of the identified biomarkers have failed to replace existing clinical tests. To become a clinically approved test, a potential biomarker should be confirmed and validated using hundreds of specimens and should be reproducible, specific, and sensitive. A search of the scientific and medical literature indicates that many studies report the discovery of potential biomarkers without proper validation and/or they do not meet the above criteria. In this manuscript, we will discuss the successes and the pitfalls of biomarker research and comment on study and experimental design, which in most cases is lacking, resulting in suboptimal biomarkers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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