Circulating tumor markers in breast cancer: accepted utilities and novel prospects

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1998;52(1-3):239-59. doi: 10.1023/a:1006137619153.


Detecting and/or monitoring changes in circulating tumor markers might assist in evaluating cancer risk, diagnosis, prognosis, or response to treatment. Several categories of circulating tumor markers have been investigated in breast cancer. These categories include classical tumor-associated antigens, such as CEA and CA 15-3, markers of tumor biology, including markers of angiogenesis, adhesion, and invasion, and antibody response to tumor-associated antigens such as HER2/neu and p53. We used a recently proposed Tumor Marker Utility Grading System to evaluate the use of several circulating tumor markers for different clinical utilities in breast cancer. While there are no tumor markers with established clinical utilities for most uses, tumor-associated antigens can be used for monitoring patients with metastatic disease. In addition, markers of tumor biology such as the circulating extracellular domain of HER2/neu might be useful in determining not only prognosis, but also response to specific treatments. However, further investigations are required to further assess the utility of individual tumor markers for specific clinical uses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammography
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local
  • Prognosis
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / blood
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / blood


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • Receptor, ErbB-2