Multianalyte tests for the early detection of cancer: speedbumps and barriers.


It has become very clear that a single molecular event is inadequate to accurately predict the biology (or pathophysiology) of cancer. Furthermore, using any single molecular event as a biomarker for the early detection of malignancy may not comprehensively identify the majority of individuals with that disease. Therefore, the fact that technologies have arisen that can simultaneously detect several, possibly hundreds, of biomarkers has propelled the field towards the development of multianalyte-based in vitro diagnostic early detection tests for cancer using body fluids such as serum, plasma, sputum, saliva, or urine. These multianalyte tests may be based on the detection of serum autoantibodies to tumor antigens, the presence of cancer-related proteins in serum, or the presence of tumor-specific genomic changes that appear in plasma as free DNA. The implementation of non-invasive diagnostic approaches to detect early stage cancer may provide the physician with evidence of cancer, but the question arises as to how the information will affect the pathway of clinical intervention. The confirmation of a positive result from an in vitro diagnostic cancer test may involve relatively invasive procedures to establish a true cancer diagnosis. If in vitro diagnostic tests are proven to be both specific, i.e. rarely produce false positive results due to unrelated conditions, and sufficiently sensitive, i.e. rarely produce false negative results, then such screening tests offer the potential for early detection and personalized therapeutics using multiple disease-related targets with convenient and non-invasive means. Here we discuss the technical and regulatory barriers inherent in development of clinical multianalyte biomarker assays.

  • Abrams J
  • Chatterjee M
  • Draghici S
  • Levin NK
  • Tainsky MA
PubMed ID
Appears In
Biomark Insights, 2007, 2