Biomarkers – The Future of Medicine

Cancer biomarkers: Written in blood

In 2012, Charles Swanton was forced to confront one of cancer’s dirtiest tricks. When he and his team at the Cancer Research UK London Research Institute sequenced DNA from a handful of kidney tumours, they expected to find a lot of different mutations, but the breadth of genetic diversity within even a single tumour shocked them. Cells from one end differed from those at the other and only one-third of the mutations were shared throughout the whole mass. Secondary tumours that had spread and taken root elsewhere in the patients’ bodies were different again.

The results confirmed that the standard prognostic procedure for cancer, the tissue biopsy, is woefully inadequate — like trying to gauge a nation’s behaviour by surveying a single street. A biopsy could miss mutations just centimetres away that might radically change a person’s chances for survival. And although biopsies can provide data about specific mutations that might make a tumour vulnerable to targeted therapies, that information is static and bound to become inaccurate as the cancer evolves.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: Cancer is always adapting in order to better survive. Although the genetic changes we see in cancer are mostly chaotic, there are some patterns and commonalities we can use to our advantage. Each patient has his or her own unique genetic “fingerprint,” and identifying it is an important aspect of what we do in integrative oncology. The innovative test I do on all of my cancer patients, a type of “liquid biopsy,” has proven very valuable in that it not only identifies the unique genetic pattern in each patient’s circulating tumor cells, but also provides us with a roadmap for which therapies we think will work best.


The Cancer Biomarkers Marketplace – Qualitative and Quantitative Market Landscapes of the Various Cancer Biomarker Classes and Their Evolution

The study of biomarkers is crucial for the development of diagnostics; therefore it is crucial to understand in detail the evolution of the various classes of biomarkers from their analysis in research to their utility as starting materials for diagnostics development. We have sought to understand the qualitative and quantitative trends operative in the various classes of biomarkers that are positioned to be utilized in the development of diagnostics in the future. The following presents a snapshot of the data from these market analyses that we have been performing on an ongoing and continual basis.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: As mentioned above, the ability to identify genetic patterns which are unique to each patient and use this information to personalize treatment is one of the hallmarks of integrative oncology. One size does NOT fit all!


788 New Cancer Biomarkers Discovered

British scientists have discovered a biological treasure trove of cancer biomarkers in blood that could be used to develop new ways to screen for tumors in early stages.

Researchers from the Universities of Sheffield, Coventry, and Warwick have identified 788 biomarkers from studies conducted over the past five years — compiling a comprehensive list of cancer signatures that could speed diagnosis and treatment.

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Dr. Stegall’s comments: Although we still use the conventional markers such as CA 15-3, CA 27.29, CA 125, PSA, etc., we also must incorporate these as a part of more extensive testing rather than relying on them as our sole method of monitoring. The biomarkers described in this article represent an exciting frontier in oncology.