Continued Importance of Biomarker Research and Development
May 30, 2007 -- Researchers have discovered a way to spot genetic changes in the body that may help doctors determine if a tumor is shrinking as a result of treatment or not. Using a sophisticated computer model that combines information from standard imaging techniques, such as CT scans, with DNA microarrays – gene chips – that screen thousands of genes at a time, scientists can actually track and predict the progression of a tumor.
The process works by using recurring image patterns found in patient scans and matching them up with a vast stockpile of genetic data from previous cancer samples. Basically, the information is translated so doctors can know what's going on inside a patient's cells and what kind of cancer he or she has, and the computer model projects its likely progression.
The new computer model is promising as it would allow doctors to gain information about a tumor using noninvasive means. A patient would no longer need to undergo a biopsy where a needle or surgery is used to extract tissue from a tumor to determine what type of cancer the patient has.
Findings like these highlight the promise of biomarker research and underscore the need for an integrated approach to R&D in cancer biomarkers. The Institute of Medicine examines this issue in a recent report, Cancer Biomarkers: The Promises and Challenges of Improving Detection and Treatment, which urges federal agencies and other research funders, academic scientists, and private industry to take a coordinated, comprehensive approach to research and development in cancer biomarkers, a field now hindered by piecemeal and unorganized efforts.