The Search for Cancer Diagnostic Markers: A Race Against Time - The knowledge that early detection and treatment offers the best outcome for the patient has long driven the search for effective diagno

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The Search for Cancer Diagnostic Markers: A Race Against Time
The knowledge that early detection and treatment offers the best outcome for the patient has long driven the search for effective diagnostics.


BioPharm International


If we accept this picture of the cancer cell, the logical conclusion is that the overall differences between a normal cell and a malignant cell are so great that the two can be easily distinguished. Yet a system based on a single marker such as PSA will never be satisfactory, and an effective assay system will have to be based upon the simultaneous assessment of multiple markers. It is not clear how such a system might be configured, but I would suggest that immunoassays that combine measurements for several markers simultaneously might offer the possibility of an effective diagnostic. One appealing way in which such platforms could be designed would entail the use of single-chain antibodies joined together as bivalent antibodies or "tetrabodies."14

It is a depressing reality that the tremendous strides in our understanding of the molecular laws governing living creatures, which have fostered so much accomplishment and understanding in recent years, have not been accompanied by a concomitant introduction of new therapies. In fact, the number of new drugs introduced into the market place has slowed, and the situation is even worse if one looks at the number of truly new drugs introduced per year, versus copycat drugs and trivial modifications of successful, already existent drugs (such as chiral products). While there are a number of explanations for this unpleasant fact, certainly a large share of the problem rests with the conclusion that the classical approach of targeting a single molecular entity with a single agent does not meet the challenge of conditions such as cancer, obesity, aging, and cardiovascular disease, in which a whole network of functions has been profoundly altered.

This challenge can be met, but it may require a whole new level of understanding and a new paradigm of treatment.

K. John Morrow, Jr., Ph.D. , BioPharm International Editorial Advisory Board and president, Newport Biotechnology Consultants, 625 Washington Ave., Newport, KY 41071, 513.237.3303, Fax: 513.271.0744,

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4. Louhimo J, Carpelan-Holmstrom M, Alfthan H, Stenman UH, Jarvinen HJ, Haglund C. Serum HCG beta, CA 72-4 and CEA are independent prognostic factors in colorectal cancer. Int J Cancer 2002;101(6):545-8.

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8. Vicini FA, Vargas C, Abner A, Kestin L, Horwitz E, Martinez A. Limitations in the use of serum prostate specific antigen levels to monitor patients after treatment for prostate cancer. J Urol. 2005; 173(5):1456-62.

9. D'Amico AV, Chen MH, Roehl KA, Catalona WJ. Preoperative PSA velocity and the risk of death from prostate cancer after radical prostatectomy. New Eng J Med. 2004; 351(2):125-135.

10. Ekstrom S, Wallman L, Malm J, Becker C, Lilja H, Laurell T, Marko-Varga G. Integrated selective enrichment target--a microtechnology platform for matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization-mass spectrometry applied on protein biomarkers in prostate diseases. Electrophoresis 2004; 25(21-22):3769-77.


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