Circulating Tumour Markers in Clinical Practice for the Early Detection of Cancer

  • G. J. S. Rustin
Conference paper


This paper critically examines those situations in which circulating tumour markers can be used in the early detection of primary or recurrent cancer. Other uses such as confirming the diagnosis, assessment of adequate surgical resection, indicator of prognosis, and monitoring of therapy will not be discussed. Many “cancer tests” have been produced which aim at indicating the presence of an early occult cancer (Table 1). Unfortunately, to date these tests have all suffered from either not being reproducible by investigators other than their discoverer or not being sufficiently sensitive or specific. It is unlikely that non-invasive or benign tumours will produce a factor in sufficient quantity that it can be measured in the circulation. However, once we know more about the transformation from a benign to a malignant tumour, compounds such as specific enzymes might be found to be increased in association with cancer cell invasion. Despite there not being a universal cancer test, there are several tumour markers currently used for the early detection of specific cancers.


Tumour Marker Germ Cell Tumour Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hydatidiform Mole Amniotic Fluid Embolus 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1992

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  • G. J. S. Rustin

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