Before the introduction of modern imaging techniques and the recent developments in molecular diagnosis, tumor markers (TMs) were among the few available diagnostic tools for the management of cancer patients. Easily obtained from serum or plasma samples, TMs are minimally invasive and convenient, and the associated costs are low. Single TMs were traditionally used but these have come under scrutiny due to their low sensitivity and specificity when used, for example, in a screening setting. However, recent research has shown superior performance using a combination of multiple TMs as a panel for assessment, or as part of validated algorithms that also incorporate other clinical factors. In addition, newer TMs have been discovered that have an increased sensitivity and specificity profile for defined malignancies. The aim of this review is to provide a concise overview of the appropriate uses of both traditional and newer TMs and their roles in diagnosis, prognosis, and the monitoring of patients in current clinical practice. We also look at the future direction of TMs and their integration with other diagnostic modalities and other emerging serum based biomarkers, such as circulating nucleic acids, to ultimately advance diagnostic performance and improve patient management.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)