PLoS Comput Biol. 2011

Application of biomarkers in cancer risk management: evaluation from stochastic clonal evolutionary and dynamic system optimization points of view.


Division of Public Health Sciences, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, United States of America.

Link to PubMed


Aside from primary prevention, early detection remains the most effective way to decrease mortality associated with the majority of solid cancers. Previous cancer screening models are largely based on classification of at-risk populations into three conceptually defined groups (normal, cancer without symptoms, and cancer with symptoms). Unfortunately, this approach has achieved limited successes in reducing cancer mortality.

With advances in molecular biology and genomic technologies, many candidate somatic genetic and epigenetic “biomarkers” have been identified as potential predictors of cancer risk. However, none have yet been validated as robust predictors of progression to cancer or shown to reduce cancer mortality. In this Perspective, we first define the necessary and sufficient conditions for precise prediction of future cancer development and early cancer detection within a simple physical model framework. We then evaluate cancer risk prediction and early detection from a dynamic clonal evolution point of view, examining the implications of dynamic clonal evolution of biomarkers and the application of clonal evolution for cancer risk management in clinical practice. Finally, we propose a framework to guide future collaborative research between mathematical modelers and biomarker researchers to design studies to investigate and model dynamic clonal evolution. This approach will allow optimization of available resources for cancer control and intervention timing based on molecular biomarkers in predicting cancer among various risk subsets that dynamically evolve over time.