Biomarker Dictionary

There are more than 80 biomarkers with potential use in personalized cancer treatment today

Someday biomarkers may be a more important part of your cancer diagnosis than the type of cancer you have. Instead of saying, “I have breast cancer,” a patient might one day say, “I have a HER2-positive carcinoma with a KRAS mutation.” In the future, even preventative cancer screening may have more to do with biomarkers than body parts.

To learn more about the dozens of biomarkers already being used to guide cancer treatment, consult the following table. It is important to note that there are thousands of known biomarkers without currently known associations with response, lack of response, or resistance to anticancer therapies. This table only represents some of the biomarkers that are currently known to be significant in informing cancer care.

Abbreviation: Definition: Cancer Correlations: Treatment Correlations:
TUBB3

tubulin beta-3 chain - a protein found in microtubules (hollow, tube-like structures that support the shape of a cell). Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: ovarian, lung (non-small cell).

Lung, Ovarian

taxanes such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere ®), vinca alkaloids such as vinorelbine (Navelbine®)

TS

thymidylate synthetase - an enzyme active in DNA synthesis and repair, can be inhibited by certain compounds. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, colon, gastric, head and neck, liver, pancreatic, lung (non-small cell).

Breast, Colorectal, Gastric, Head & Neck, Liver, Lung, Pancreatic

lack of response to 5-fluorouracil (Adrucil®), cytarabine (Cytosar-U®), pemetrexed (Alimta®)

TOPO2A

topoisomerase IIA - an enzyme active in DNA synthesis and repair. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, colon, ovarian, lung (small cell).

Breast, Colorectal, Lung, Ovarian

doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), epirubicin (Ellence®, Pharmorubucin®), liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®)

TLE3

transducin-like enhancer protein 3 - a member of the transducin-like enhancer of split family of proteins, TLE3 is implicated in the formation of various tumors. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, ovarian.

Breast, Ovarian

taxane therapy such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere ®)

SPARC

secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine - a protein active in tumor growth and metastasis (spreading). Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: skin (melanoma), breast, gastric, pancreatic, head and neck.

Breast, Gastric, Head & Neck, Pancreatic, Skin

albumin-bound paclitaxel/nab-paclitaxel (Abraxane®)

RRM1

ribonucleotide reductase subunit M1 - an enzyme required for DNA synthesis from RNA and therefore can interfere with treatments that work by disrupting RNA activity. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell), pancreatic.

Lung, Pancreatic

high expression associated with lack of response to gemcitabine (Gemzar®), hydroxyurea (Hydrea®, Droxia®)

PTEN

phosphatase and tensin homolog - a tumor suppressor active in EGFR, HER2 and AKT cell signaling pathways. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, colon, lung (non-small cell), brain (glioblastoma), head and neck.

Brain, Breast, Colorectal, Head & Neck, Lung

low expression associated with lack of response to cetuximab (Erbitux®), gefitinib (Iressa®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®), panitumumab (Vectibix®), erlotinib (Tarceva®)

PR

progesterone receptor, also called PGR - part of the nuclear hormone family of intracellular receptors, PR is active in cell multiplication. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, ovarian, female genital tract cancer

Breast, Ovarian

letrozole (Femara®), tamoxifen (Nolvadex®), fulvestrant (Faslodex®), toremifene (Fareston®), exemestane (Aromasin®), anastrozole (Arimidex®), goserelin (Zoladex®), gonadorelin (Factrel®), leuprolide (Eligard®, Lupron®, Viadur®), medroxyprogesterone (Provera®, Amen®, Curretab®, Cycrin®), megestrol acetate (Megace®, Megace® ES)

PIK3CA

Phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase, catalytic subunit alpha - a specific mutation within the PI3 (phosphoinositide 3) kinase pathway or a gene copy number variation; aberrations along the PI3K pathway are associated with many cancers. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: colorectal, brain (glioblastoma), gastric, breast, lung, ovarian.

Brain, Breast, Colorectal, Gastric, Lung, Ovarian

resistance to lapatinib (Tykerb®), cetuximab (Erbitux®), and panitumumab (Vectibix); decreased response to trastuzumab (Herceptin®)

PGP

p-glycoprotein, also known as P-gp - a drug efflux pump associated with acquired resistance to many drugs. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, ovarian, lymphoma, head and neck.

Breast, Head & Neck, Lymphoma, Ovarian

lack of response to anthracylines such as doxorubicin (Adriamycin®), epirubicin (Ellence®) and liposomal-doxorubicin (Doxil®), and other drugs such as paclitaxel (Taxol®), docetaxel (Taxotere®), vinblastine (Velban®), vincristine (Oncovin®), vinorelbine (Navelbine®)

MRP1

multidrug resistance-associated protein 1 - a drug efflux pump (a transporter located within membranes of cells that recognizes drugs and pumps them out), MRP1 is associated with resistance to many drugs. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, lymphoma, head and neck.

Breast, Head & Neck, Lymphoma

lack of response to anthracyclines such as doxorubicin (Adrimycin®), vinca alkaloids, and methotrexate (Trexall®)

MGMT

O-6-methylguanine-DNA methyltransferase - a gene that encodes a DNA repair enzyme, loss of MGMT may play a role in cancer formation, MGMT can also interfere with treatments that work by disrupting tumor DNA. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, lung (non-small cell), esophageal, brain (glioblastoma multiforme, oligodendrogliomas), skin (melanoma), pituitary gland (carcinoma)

Brain, Breast, Lung, Pituitary Gland, Skin

lack of response to temozolomide (Temodar®)

KRAS

Kirsten rat sarcoma viral oncogene homolog - a proto-oncogene of the Kirsten murine sarcoma virus, active in cell signaling in the EGFR pathway, promotes cell growth and multiplication. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell), colon, pancreatic

Colorectal, Lung, Pancreatic

cetuximab (Erbitux®), erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®), panitumumab (Vectibix®)

HER2

human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, also known as HER2/neu or ErbB-2 - a receptor tyrosine kinase active in cell signaling, promotes cell growth and multiplication. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, gastroesophageal, gastric, ovarian, colorectal.

Breast, Colorectal, Gastric, Ovarian

lapatinib (Tykerb®), trastuzumab (Herceptin®), doxorubicin (Adriamycin®, Rubex®), liposomal doxorubicin (Caelyx®, Myocet®), epirubicin (Ellence®)

ERCC1

excision repair cross-complementation group 1 - an enzyme active in DNA repair and therefore a sign of resistance to treatments that work by disrupting tumor DNA. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell and small cell), gastric, ovarian, colorectal, bladder

Bladder, Colorectal, Gastric, Lung, Ovarian

resistance to cisplatin (Platinol®), carboplatin (Paraplatin®), oxaliplatin (Eloxatin®)

ER

estrogen receptor - part of the nuclear hormone family of intracellular receptors, ER is active in cell multiplication. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: breast, ovarian, female genital tract cancer

Breast, Ovarian

anastrazole (Arimidex®), exemestane (Aromasin®), letrozole (Femara®), tamoxifen (Nolvadex®), megestrol acetate (Megace®, Megace® ES), fulvestrant (Faslodex®), toremifene (Fareston®), medroxyprogesterone, (Provera®, Amen®, Curretab®, Cycrin®), goserelin (Zoladex®), leuprolide (Eligard®, Lupron®, Viadur®)

EGFR secondary mutation (T790 M)

A mutation of the EGFR gene associated with acquired resistance to certain treatments. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell), colorectal, head and neck

Colorectal, Head & Neck, Lung

resistance to erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®)

EGFR

epidermal growth factor receptor, also known as ErbB-1 or HER1 - a receptor tyrosine kinase active in cell signaling, promotes cell growth and multiplication. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell)

Lung

cetuximab (Erbitux®), erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®), panitumumab (Vectibix®)

COX-2

cyclooxygenase-2, also known as protaglandin-endoperoxide synthase-2 (PTGS2) - an enzyme important to creation of prostaglandins, which are messenger molecules that play a role in many cancers. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell)

Lung

celecoxib (Celebrex®)

c-MET

also known as mesenchymal epithelial transition factor (MET) or hepatocyte growth factor receptor (HGFR) - a proto-oncogene active in cell signaling, c-MET promotes cancer cell growth and multiplication. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell), ovarian

Lung, Ovarian

erlotinib (Tarceva®), gefitinib (Iressa®)

c-Kit

tyrosine-protein kinase Kit, also known as CD117 or mast/stem cell growth factor receptor (SCFR) - a proto-oncogene that interacts with cell growth factors, c-Kit plays a role in cell survival, multiplication and differentiation. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: GIST (gastrointestinal stromal tumor), skin (melanoma), blood (acute myelogenous leukemia)

Blood, Gastric, Skin

imatinib (Gleevec®), sorafenib (Nexavar®), sunitinib (Sutent®)

BRCA1

breast cancer 1, early onset - a tumor suppressor gene, BRCA1 helps to repair DNA or destroys cells if DNA cannot be repaired; its expression in many cancers can indicate potential response to certain types of therapies. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung, ovarian, breast

Breast, Lung, Ovarian

cisplatin (Platinol®)

AR

androgen receptor - part of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily, active in cell signaling and therefore cell multiplication and growth. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, lung (non-small cell)

Bladder, Breast, Lung, Ovarian, Prostate

bicalutamide (Casodex®), flutamide (Eulexin®), goserelin (Zoladex®), leuprolide (Lupron®), abarelix (Plenaxis®), gonadorelin (Factrel®)

ALK

anaplastic lymphoma kinase - an enzyme that can form an oncogenic fusion gene with EML4. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: lung (non-small cell), lymphoma (anaplastic large-cell), nervous system (familial neuroblastoma).

Lung, Lymphoma, Nervous System

crizotinib (Xalkori®), pemetrexed (Alimta®)

BRAF

also know as v-raf murine sarcoma viral oncogene homolog B1 - a proto-oncogene in the RAF/MIL family of molecules active in MAP/ERK cell signaling, promotes cell multiplication and growth. Cancers that may benefit from testing for this biomarker: colon, skin (melanoma), lung (adenocarcinoma), thyroid (papillary thyroid carcinoma), nervous system (pleomorphic xanthoastrocytomas with and without anaplasia)

Colorectal, Lung, Nervous System, Skin, Thyroid

cetuximab (Erbitux®), panitumumab (Vectibix®), vemurafenib (Zelboraf®)

FISH, IHC