Cell-free nucleic acids as biomarkers in cancer patients

Nat Rev Cancer. 2011 Jun;11(6):426-37. doi: 10.1038/nrc3066. Epub 2011 May 12.


DNA, mRNA and microRNA are released and circulate in the blood of cancer patients. Changes in the levels of circulating nucleic acids have been associated with tumour burden and malignant progression. In the past decade a wealth of information indicating the potential use of circulating nucleic acids for cancer screening, prognosis and monitoring of the efficacy of anticancer therapies has emerged. In this Review, we discuss these findings with a specific focus on the clinical utility of cell-free nucleic acids as blood biomarkers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / blood*
  • DNA / blood*
  • DNA, Viral / blood
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / blood*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / blood*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA, Viral
  • MicroRNAs
  • RNA, Messenger
  • DNA