Molecules in our bodies that are characteristic of particular diseases or physical conditions are called biomarkers. Accordingly, tumour biomarkers are molecules generated by cancer cells or as a response to the occurrence of cancer. Biomarkers can be RNA, DNA, proteins produced by cells as well as genes altered by the disease. They can be found in various types of body fluids like plasma, serum, blood, urine and stool, CSF.
While some tumour biomarkers are characteristic of particular types and stages of cancer, others are generic to the disease. Apart from playing role in the following functions, these molecules can also provide valuable predictions of response to treatments and prognosis of the diseses
Tumour biomarkers can detect cancer at the preliminary stages; sometimes even before the symptoms manifest. Detection at the earliest stages helps the treatment immensely.
High levels of certain tumour biomarkers are signs of more risk in certain cancers.
Since biomarkers can be identified the type of cancer, they help in predicting response to treatment options. The medical team can then formulate a personalized treatment plan, which optimizes patient results. Biomarker levels are consistently monitored during treatment to evaluate the response. The occurrence of tumour biomarkers after completion of treatment can detect recurrence of the disease.
A sample of body fluid is collected depending on the purpose of the assessment. If your oncologist requires tissue samples, he may perform a biopsy or use samples from an earlier biopsy. In the laboratory, several tests are conducted on the sample to detect the presence of biomarkers and their concentration.
Many samples may be taken during the course of the treatment when the biomarker levels will be compared. The decrease or increase in the levels determines the efficacy of treatment.
Testing for tumour biomarkers does not require any preparation. The doctor will inform you about the type of sample to be collected and any specific instructions if the situation demands it.