Biomarkers for breast cancer

Minerva Chir. 2002 Aug;57(4):437-48.


Molecular biomarkers for breast cancer are of several types. Risk biomarkers are those associated with increased cancer risk and include mammographic abnormalities, proliferative breast disease with or without atypia, family clustering and inherited germ-line abnormalities. Surrogate endpoint biomarkers are tissue, cellular or molecular alterations that occur between cancer initiation and progression. These biomarkers are utilized as endpoints in short-term chemoprevention trials. Prognostic biomarkers provide information regarding outcome irrespective of therapy, while predictive biomarkers provide information regarding response to therapy. Candidate prognostic biomarkers for breast cancer include elevated proliferation indices such as Ki-67 and proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA); ER and PR overexpression; markers of oncogene overexpression such as c-erbB-2, TGF-a and EGFr; indicators of apoptotic imbalance including overexpression of bcl-2 and an increased bax/bcl-2 ratio; markers of disordered cell signaling such as p53 nuclear protein accumulation; alteration of differentiation signals such as overexpression of c-myc and related proteins; loss of differentiation markers such as TGF-b II receptor and retinoic acid receptor; and alteration of angiogenesis proteins such as VEGF overexpression. As our knowledge regarding molecular biomarkers for breast cancer increases, prognostic indices will be developed that combine the predictive power of individual molecular biomarkers with specific clinical and pathologic factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor*
  • Biopsy
  • Breast / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Female
  • Genes, p53
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Ki-67 Antigen / analysis
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen / analysis
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Ki-67 Antigen
  • Proliferating Cell Nuclear Antigen
  • ErbB Receptors