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Use of novel diagnostic biomarkers


Biomarkers (short for biological markers) are objective measurments used to perform clinical assessments and to predict health states in individuals.  At the basic level, they include blood pressure and resting heart rate.    


The ongoing discovery of biomarkers which can indicate the likelihood of developing a particular disease - or even rapidly diagnose the presence of a disease - is an important currnet theme in biomedical research.


This is in part due advances in bioinformatics where it is becoming quicker and more cost effective to sequence DNA and proteins.  This in turn creates increased scope for the identification of potentially useful biomarkers. 


Extending this process so that cost effective diagnostic tests are then widely available would help with prevention and / or early treatment of various diseases, particularly cancers.  


The table below provides some specific examples of novel biomarkers which are showing signs of efficacy and are undergoing clinical trials.


Each individual marker could theoretically constitute a catalyst in its own right, subject to the combined trigger of (a) success in clinical trials followed by (b) widespread utilisation of the tests within the NHS.  

Biomarker test

Capabilities of the biomarker

Current stage (Updated August 2015)

including source.

Blood lipid test to identify antecedent memory loss.

Prediction /early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. Indirect benefit of identifying individuals at early disease stage on whom to trial possible new drug therapies.

Small scale study has shown promise. Larger clinical trials required before widespread use.

Plasma phospholipids identify antecedent memory impairment in older adults. Mapstone et al., 2014. Nature Medicine.

EN2 urine test for prostate cancer.

Non-invasive and cheap diagnosis of prostate cancer. Also a quantitative biomarker so the size of a tumour can also be established.

Small scale study has shown promise. Larger clinical trials required before widespread use.

EN2: A novel prostate cancer biomarker. McGrath et al., 2013. Biomarkers in Medicine.

IDH1 blood test for lung cancer.

Non-invasive. Can detect lung cancer at the earliest possible stage.

Trial of 1000 cancer patients and 500 controls in China showed IDH1 to be elevated in lung cancer patients. Further testing and cost-effectiveness study required next.

Isocitrate Dehydrogenase 1 is a Novel Plasma Biomarker for the Diagnosis of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Chen et al., 2013. Clinical Cancer Research.

Urine test for early stage pancreatic cancer detection

Non-invasive test which can detect a "protein signature" which is 90% accurate in detecting early stage pancreatic cancer.

Small scale study has shown promise. Larger clinical trials required before wider use. Identification of a three-biomarker panel in urine for early detection of pancreatic adenocarcinoma.

Clinical Cancer Research, August 2015.

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