Cancer Biomarkers: What are they, and how are they useful in the fight against cancer?

Kathryn Simpson

Biomarkers can take many forms in the body, but in the case of cancer they are often cells (known as Circulating Tumour Cells), proteins or DNA that have been shed by the tumour and can be measured in the bloodstream of a cancer patient. More commonly, they are measured in the patient’s tumour.

Ideally, we want to be able to use a simple blood test, instead of an invasive biopsy, to help us ask many questions about that patient and their cancer, in order to treat their disease better. Understanding how different biomarkers are produced and how they are altered in cancer can help scientists to detect cancer sooner, or determine if it is likely to respond to a certain type of treatment. Kathryn’s team are primarily focused on small cell lung cancer (SCLC), a very aggressive form of lung cancer.

Because it is so difficult to obtain tissue samples to study SCLC in a laboratory setting, the team developed pre-clinical models known as CDX models. These are derived from Circulating Tumour Cells which are highly abundant in SCLC patients and can be grown in mice (strictly regulated by the Home Office), to then provide ample tissue to study and understand SCLC. Our research focuses on building this understanding, in order to develop better treatments and to understand how the cancer changes over time. Ultimately this research encompasses the overall goal of the National Biomarker Centre, which is to deliver biomarker-driven clinical trials, leading to better treatments to improve the lives of people with cancer.

Kathryn runs the Preclinical Pharmacology Team in the Cancer Research UK National Biomarker Centre.

October Speaker Sponsor Logos
October Speaker Sponsor Logos

Location and date

This event was posted in .