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The use of tumour markers

Potential and limitations
Matthias Pühse
The use of tumour markers
Blood sample for tumour marker tests © Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock
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Tumor markers are efficient biomarkers for the monitoring of malignant diseases. For screening purposes, the current routine markers are only of limited or no use. In this article, the most common tumor markers and their areas of application as well as their limitations are discussed. Finally an outlook on potential future tumor markers is given.

General biochemical medical background

In general, substances which are increasingly formed in the presence of malignant diseases and can be detected in blood or other body fluids, are referred to as tumour markers. These are primarily proteins, but nucleic acids such as DNA or RNA and even metabolites, also fall under this definition. Strictly speaking however, only the first 3 categories, in other words the biopolymers, are regarded as tumour markers. All of today‘s tumour markers are by no means only produced by malignant, degenerated cells, but can also be detected at low concentrations in the peripheral blood of healthy subjects. In addition, benign disorders of various organs very often lead to transient, more or less pronounced increases in the serum concentration. In terms of…

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