A new paper by Crislyn D'Souza-Schorey, professor of biological sciences at the University of Notre Dame, discusses the biology of tumor-derived microvesicles and their clinical application as circulating biomarkers. Microvesicles are membrane-bound sacs released by tumor cells and can be detected in the body fluids of cancer patients.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the incidence of cancer will reach approximately 9 million deaths in 2015. The rising prevalence of the disease is a major factor that drives the growth of the oncology biomarkers market. Biomarkers can be defined as any biological, chemical or physical parameter that can be utilized as an indicator of physiological or disease status. Thus, biomarkers are useful in cancer screening and detection, drug design and also to boost the effectiveness of cancer care by allowing physicians to tailor therapies for individual patientsan approach known as personalized medicine.
The new paper discusses the potential of microvesicles to present a combination of disease and tissue-specific markers that would constitute a unique, specific and identifiable biosignature for individual cancers.
"As such, it would make their sampling over time a preferred method to monitor changes to the tumor in response to treatment, especially for tissues such as the ovary or pancreas, where repeated biopsies of these organs is impractical," D'Souza-Schorey said.
Profiling of microvesicles could form the basis of personalized, targeted cancer therapies, especially as more reliable and rapid profiling technologies become available.
"For example, certain markers like HER2/neu, in addition to being elevated in breast cancer, is also increased in a relatively smaller subset of other cancers such as ovarian cancer," D'Souza-Schorey said. "This latter group of patients would benefit from existing treatment strategies that target the HER2 receptor."
University of Notre Dame