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Protein Tumor Markers

Written/Edited by Dr. Stefan Pellenz, PhD

What are biomarkers

Biomarkers are defined as “any substance, structure, or process that can be measured in the body or its products and influence or predict the incidence of outcome or disease”1. Certain physiological conditions are characterized by the presence or altered levels of substances specific for that condition. Substances such as proteins and peptides can be readily measured and are therefore often times used as biomarkers.

Biomarkers in tumor diagnostics

Tumor markers represent a subset of biomarkers that are indicative for cancerous growth. Most of these marker are being produced by both normal cells as well as tumor cells. The levels at which they are present in bodily fluids like urine, saliva or blood are however typically significantly higher in patients with various malignancies.

There is a plethora of tumor markers2, 3 being used which can be classified base on their function, the way they are detected, or the kind of sample in which they are measured:

  • Oncofetal antigens
  • Tumor associated antigens
  • Hormones and hormone receptors
  • Enzymes and isoenzymes
  • Serum and tissue proteins
  • Cancer stem cells4
  • other tumor markers such genetic markers and biomolecules.
 Tumor markers and their sites.

Tumor markers and their sites.

A perfect tumor marker is highly specific and differentiates reliably between healthy individuals and cancer patients. It can be a universal tumor marker or specific for one particular malignancy. It should permit early detection of early stage tumors and at the same time distinguish tumor stages and have prognostic value for outcome and potential recurrence. Lastly, it should be easily measureable with established techniques to follow any changes during the course of a treatment.

None of the established markers fulfill all the points in the wish list for the perfect tumor marker. Instead, several markers are typically used in conjunction to allow for a reliable diagnosis, prognosis, staging and monitoring of a wide range of different cancer types5.

How to measure tumor markers

Presently, the majority of tumor biomarkers are proteins or peptides. Consequently, they can be qualitatively and quantitatively measured using immunological methods such as ELISA, immunohistochemistry, immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, or other methods depending on the nature of the marker and of the sample.

An increasing number of tumor markers are also based on genetic variations6. Altered expression patterns and mutations in certain oncogenes do not affect the type of malignancy but are also determinants for the response to treatment.

Protein and Peptid Tumor Markers in different Tissues

cancer types

Table 1: Compilation of Protein Tumor Marker in different Tissues

The table above compiles a number of protein and peptide markers that are typically used to diagnose and monitor various malignant conditions. The first column classifies the different markers as oncofetal antigens (yellow), tumor associated antigens (green), hormones and hormone receptors (orange), iso-/enzymes (light grey), serum and tissue markers (dark grey), and cancer stem cell markers (blue). The matrix indicates for which cancer types the different markers can be used. Markers for which Independently Validated (IV) products are available are marked in the last column.


Want to dig deeper into Tumor Markers? Take a closer look and learn more about protein and peptide markers that are typically used to diagnose and monitor various malignant conditions.

Tumor marker related products

Marker class Marker - click antigen for available products Gene Cancer type IV
Oncofetal antigensAFPliver, germ cell tumors, ovarian, testicular
Oncofetal antigensCEACAM5esophageal, bile duct, colorectal, breast, thyroid
Oncofetal antigensCEACAM6esophageal, bile duct, colorectal, breast, thyroid
Oncofetal antigensCEACAM1esophageal, bile duct, colorectal, breast, thyroid
Oncofetal antigensCEACAM7esophageal, bile duct, colorectal, breast, thyroid
Tumor associated antigens-carcenoid
Tumor associated antigensMUC1breast
Tumor associated antigens-pancreatic, gallbladder, bile duct, gastric
Tumor associated antigens-bile duct, gastric cancer
Tumor associated antigensMUC16ovarian
Hormes and receptorsCGA, CGBchoriocarcinoma, testicular
Hormes and receptorsCALC1medullary thyroid cancer
Hormes and receptorsCHGAneuroendocrine tumors
Hormes and receptorsEGFRnon-small cell lung cancer
Hormes and receptorsESR1breast
Hormes and receptorsESR2breast
Hormes and receptorsERBB2breast, gastric, esophageal
Hormes and receptorsBGLAPbone
Hormes and receptorsPGRbreast
Hormes and receptorsTFRCbreast
Hormes and receptorsTTRovarian
Enzymes and modulatorsALPLbone
Enzymes and modulatorsBCR/ABL1chronic myelogenous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia
Enzymes and modulatorsBRAFCutaneous melanoma and colorectal cancer
Enzymes and modulatorsKITgastrointestinal stromal tumor, mucosal melanoma
Enzymes and modulatorsKRAScolorectal, non-small cell lung cancer
Enzymes and modulatorsPSAprostate
Enzymes and modulatorsLDHAgerm cell tumors, gastric
Enzymes and modulatorsLDHBgerm cell tumors, gastric
Enzymes and modulatorsLDHCgerm cell tumors, gastric
Enzymes and modulatorsENO2lung
Enzymes and modulatorsNUMA1bladder
Enzymes and modulatorsSERPINE1breast
Enzymes and modulatorsSERPINB3esopahgeal, lung, ovarian, squamous cell carcinoma
Enzymes and modulatorsSERPINB4esopahgeal, lung, ovarian, squamous cell carcinoma
Enzymes and modulatorsPLAUbreast
Serum and tissue proteinsAPOA1ovarian
Serum and tissue proteinsB2Mmultiple myeloma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, lymphoma
Serum and tissue proteinsKRT19breast, lung
Serum and tissue proteinsWAP5ovarian
Serum and tissue proteinsFTL, FTH1liver
Serum and tissue proteins-bladder
Serum and tissue proteins-bladder
Serum and tissue proteinsS100A1malignant melanome
Serum and tissue proteins-lung
Serum and tissue proteinsTGthyroid
Cancer stem cellsALDH1A1cancer stem cells, breast, colon, lung, melanoma, pancreatic, prostate
Cancer stem cellsMS4A1Cancer stem cells, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, melanoma
Cancer stem cellsCD24Cancer stem cells, colon cancer
Cancer stem cellsCD44Cancer stem cells, breast, colon, liver, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate
Cancer stem cellsNESCancer stem cells, glioma, pancreatic


Stefan Pellenz
Dr. Stefan Pellenz, PhD
Product Manager at

Goal-oriented, time line driven scientist, proficiently trained in different academic institutions in Germany, France and the USA. Experienced in the life sciences e-commerce environment with a focus on product development and customer relation management.

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