Systematic searches for plasma proteins that are biological indicators, or biomarkers, for cancer are underway. The difficulties caused by the complexity of biological-fluid proteomes and tissue proteomes (which contribute proteins to plasma) and by the extensive heterogeneity among diseases, subjects and levels of sample procurement are gradually being overcome. This is being achieved through rigorous experimental design and in-depth quantitative studies. The expected outcome is the development of panels of biomarkers that will allow early detection of cancer and prediction of the probable response to therapy. Achieving these objectives requires high-quality specimens with well-matched controls, reagent resources, and an efficient process to confirm discoveries through independent validation studies.