Then and Now: Understanding Tumor Biomarkers


Here’s another throwback to one of our 2008 issues, where genetic testing was just gaining steam in the cancer space.

A decade ago, KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer was a hot topic at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. At that time, researchers were just then figuring out that patients whose tumors had KRAS mutations tended not to respond to the chemotherapy Erbitux (cetuximab).

Those findings still play an important role in the treatment planning of patients with gastrointestinal cancers. But as next-generation sequencing continues to become more widespread, health care practitioners are able to offer patients more personalized treatments than ever before.

In fact, just last year Keytruda (pembrolizumab) was the first drug to be granted Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat cancers based on a tumor’s biomarker — those that are microsatellite instability-high (MSI-H) — rather than its location, highlighting the need for personalized medicine across each tumor type.

But back in 2008, there was little large-scale data identifying tumor markers that could predict patients’ responses to certain drugs. While we have more information than ever, researchers are still searching for better biomarkers and ways to select patients for current treatment options, such as immunotherapy.

The field of oncology will continue to charge ahead in 2019 and beyond, bringing more FDA approvals, new treatments and personalized medicine. Sign up for CURE emails and never miss a beat!

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