A biomarker is something that can be measured and evaluated to examine normal biological processes. It is a substance obtained from the blood, body fluids, or tissue that reflects processes that are going on inside the body. They can be used to predict disease risk and also to select those individuals who could potentially benefit most from therapy. Biomarker testing is therefore at the centre of personalised medicine.
Cancer occurs because of abnormal changes within the human genome. The human genome is the blueprint by which our bodies are made and work. Cancer biomarkers include structural changes within the genome, abnormal features of gene products, or biochemical effects of the tumour. Cancer biomarkers are therefore used for many different aspects of cancer care. Some cancer biomarkers are used to assess a person’s chances for developing cancer whilst others are used for the early detection and identification of cancer. In addition, biomarkers can be used following a cancer diagnosis to plan the best treatment and also used to track treatment results or cancer growth if not on treatment.
Over the last 10 years or so, researchers have also been testing several biomarkers to predict heart disease. These include:
– C-reactive protein – a marker of inflammation in the body;
– Apolipoproteins – types of protein that travel in the blood with cholesterol;
– Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 – an enzyme released by immune system cells;
– B-type natriuretic peptide – a hormone produced in response to excess stress on the heart.