Biomarkers in Cancer Therapy

In medicine, a biological marker, or “biomarker” is, in the broadest sense, anything that can be used as an indicator of a particular disease state or some other biological state of an organism. Classically, the term referred to a basic laboratory parameter used to help physicians diagnose a disease and select a course of treatment. For example, the detection of the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA):in blood samples has been an important diagnostic, progression or recurrence marker especially for cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.

Currently, intensive work is being done at the LDI and elsewhere to discover innovative and more effective biomarkers. These "new" biomarkers are becoming the basis for preventive medicine, which recognizes disease risk early, and takes specific countermeasures to prevent its development. Biomarkers are also seen as the key to personalized medicine, treatments tailored to an individual for highly effective intervention in disease processes.

Researchers involved in the biomarker discovery group are using recently discovered technologies which enable the screening of thousands of genes (genomics) or proteins (proteomics) on a single platform to identify biomarkers that may serve to classify patients into higher or lower risk groups, or to serve as targets for “patient-tailored” therapy. Biomarkers can be identified from the tumour tissue itself or from blood. One advantage of studying blood biomarkers is that there is easy accessibility: samples can be obtained from patients via a simple blood test. Currently, a handful of blood markers are being used in the clinic to assist in the diagnosis and monitoring for recurrence of various cancers; however, the use of these markers is somewhat limited, due to their lack of sensitivity and specificity.

Project Directors

Laurent Azoulay - Assistant Professor, Departments of Oncology, McGill University
Clinical epidemiology

Mark Basik - Assistant Professor, Departments of Surgery and Oncology, McGill University
Investigating gene expression and DNA changes in breast and colon cancers.

Walter H. Gotlieb - Associate Professor, Departments of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Oncology, McGill University
Insulin-Like Growth Factor Receptor I targeting in epithelial ovarian cancer.

Bruce Gottlieb - Adjunct Professor, Department of Nursing; Member, Department of Human Genetics, McGill University
Micro-genetic analysis of cancer tissues.

Alan Spatz - Professor, Departments of Pathology and Oncology, McGill University
Genomic signature in melanoma progression and prognosis.

Mark Trifiro - Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, McGill University
Androgen Receptor – mechanism of action, genetic instability of androgen independent prostate carcinoma.
Support research at the Lady Davis Institute - Jewish General Hospital