New Cancer Biomarker Found

New Cancer Biomarker Found

In the daily laboratory battle to eradicate cancer, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recently traveled one step closer to more accurate cancer treatment.

Researchers identified 14 genes regulating genome integrity hoping that it, according to a Berkeley Lab news report, “could lead to a new biomarker for the early stages of tumor development.” Being able to detect cancerous cells that disguise themselves as “normal” is precisely why biomarker science for cancer treatment is more prevalent than ever.

Biomarker Science

Biomarkers have been being used in cancer research for many years now and the more they are studied, the closer researchers are coming to answers.

A biomarker is described as,

“A measurable substance in an organism whose presence is indicative of some phenomenon such as disease, infection, or environmental exposure” (McKean Erin and Ed. 2007).

Information obtained from biomarkers are enabling doctors to be able to predict patient response to treatment creating a more targeted, potentially more successful treatment protocol. Biomarkers that can determine tumor growth before full maturation, such as the ones currently reported, could be a significant leap in the fight against cancer.

Biomarker research along with a variety of progressive treatments including hormonal and nanotech, has come to be known as precision medicine. In a case study published in Nature Reviews, researchers from the Laboratory of Human Carcinogenesis, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland state that,

“Precision medicine relies on validated biomarkers with which to better classify patients by their probable disease risk, prognosis and/or response to treatment.”

A Detectable Expression

The mechanism in which a biomarker works has to do with the intricate change in certain genes. Each gene has a particular “expression” that fits in with the proper functioning order. Even the slightest change in this expression is considered an “overexpression”. When detected, researchers created a scoring system based on the overexpression associated with more developed lung and breast cancer. As the score increases the more potential there is for a worse prognosis. However, this detection also increases the potential for recovery or delay of full onset cancer.

Avoiding Overtreatment 

Since cancer treatment began, it has always been known that the remedy could be just as dangerous as the disease. It was and still is the gamble that has seen so many come through on the other side resulting in successful numbers.

Although cancer medicines and surgeries are becoming more pinpointed, there are still extreme side effects that some trade off living with rather than perish. With biomarker research, the invasive pharmaceutical approaches may be significantly minimized by catching the cancer before it can begin full maturation.

Anshu Jain, Berkeley Lab study co-author and oncologist at the Ashland Bellefonte Cancer Center in Kentucky and clinical instructor at the Yale School of Medicine comments,

“These findings are very exciting, the biomarker score provides predictive and prognostic information separate from and independent of clinical and pathologic tumor characteristics that oncologists have available today and which often provide only limited clinical value.”

Clear Instability

Focusing on functions called centromeres and kinetochores which are essential sites on chromosomes, Berkeley researchers have proved that they can now see what has long been theorized. With chromosomes being the carriers of genetic information it was believed that when there was an instability within, cancer can develop. Yet, if the cancer increases treatment could be an additional danger. This biomarker research is showing how this theory is now a fact.

Lead author Weiguo Zhang, a project scientist at Berkeley Lab describes the process,

“In other words, there’s a threshold of genome instability, at low to medium-high levels, the cancer thrives. But at much higher levels, the cancer cells are more susceptible to the additional DNA damage caused by the treatment. This is a really key point.”

Down the Line

As biomarker research continues it can be applied to a wide variety of systemic red flags. Maybe there will be the possibility of having your infant checked and treated for not only cancer but other disease that may be in the beginning throes of development. It is a science that goes deep into the root rather than spends its time chasing disease that has already gone too far.


Medical science is on the cusp of going over the tipping point and into areas which just may benefit patients before Big Pharma can sink its fangs into it. Easier said than done because going up against a billion dollar industry with simple, preventative research may be a threat to its bottom line. Hopefully, sensibility will trump greed and more people will live pain free.