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The issues and challenges with cancer biomarkers

1 Department of Pediatrics, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Radiotherapy, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
4 Formerly Chief, IRCH, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi; Ex-Director, NCI, Jhajjar, Haryana, India

Correspondence Address:
Subhradip Karmakar,
Department of Biochemistry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcrt.jcrt_384_22

A biomarker is a measurable indicator used to distinguish precisely/objectively either normal biological state/pathological condition/response to a specific therapeutic intervention. The use of novel molecular biomarkers within evidence-based medicine may improve the diagnosis/treatment of disease, improve health outcomes, and reduce the disease's socio-economic impact. Presently cancer biomarkers are the backbone of therapy, with greater efficacy and better survival rates. Cancer biomarkers are extensively used to treat cancer and monitor the disease's progress, drug response, relapses, and drug resistance. The highest percent of all biomarkers explored are in the domain of cancer. Extensive research using various methods/tissues is carried out for identifying biomarkers for early detection, which has been mostly unsuccessful. The quantitative/qualitative detection of various biomarkers in different tissues should ideally be done in accordance with qualification rules laid down by the Early Detection Research Network (EDRN), Program for the Assessment of Clinical Cancer Tests (PACCT), and National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry. Many biomarkers are presently under investigation, but lacunae lie in the biomarker's sensitivity and specificity. An ideal biomarker should be quantifiable, reliable, of considerable high/low expression, correlate with the outcome progression, cost-effective, and consistent across gender and ethnic groups. Further, we also highlight that these biomarkers' application remains questionable in childhood malignancies due to the lack of reference values in the pediatric population. The development of a cancer biomarker stands very challenging due to its complexity and sensitivity/resistance to the therapy. In past decades, the cross-talks between molecular pathways have been targeted to study the nature of cancer. To generate sensitive and specific biomarkers representing the pathogenesis of specific cancer, predicting the treatment responses and outcomes would necessitate inclusion of multiple biomarkers.

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