If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with cancer, you have likely immersed yourself in the rich vocabulary of oncology and cancer biology. In your research, you may have encountered the term “biomarker.” But what is a biomarker?
A biomarker is any physical characteristic of the human body that can be measured. Your blood pressure is a biomarker. A hemoglobin level is a biomarker. Some biomarkers can be linked to a particular diagnosis, to disease outcomes, or to response to medication or other therapy. In oncology, important biomarkers that can be measured include the DNA, RNA, and protein within a tumor. These biomarkers can be used to make a diagnosis, to predict cancer aggressiveness, or to predict that a particular therapy will be effective.
Which biomarkers are important to measure? Caris measures a comprehensive set of biomarkers to help oncologists make informed treatment decisions.
Predictive biomarkers are those which select for a specific medication. In advanced and metastatic NSCLC alone, various biomarkers – EGFR, ALK, ROS1, MET, RET, and PD-L1 – are recommended by the NCCN upon diagnosis for the purpose of determining therapy options. These results determine whether a patient receives targeted therapy, immunotherapy, and chemotherapy based on testing results.
Each cancer has a unique molecular profile – knowledge which helps guide therapy management.
To interrogate these cancer biomarkers, your doctor will need to submit a tumor specimen or bodily fluid to a laboratory that specializes in advanced pathology and molecular profiling services. These testing methods assess biomarkers for the presence or absence of potentially actionable aberrations.
At our laboratory, our comprehensive approach reveals what is happening at the molecular level of a tumor to effect patient care. We incorporate the most current technology and marry them to published clinical studies from academic cancer centers across the globe. We feel this approach provides your doctor invaluable guidance in determining the next course of therapy or, perhaps, consider a novel approach not previously considered.
Your doctor can personalize your disease management plan by tailoring your treatment to the specific biomarkers found in your cancer.