For breast cancer, the existing markers are of little value for screening or aiding early diagnosis. In contrast, markers are available for determining prognosis, predicting likely response to therapy, post-operative follow-up and monitoring therapy in metastatic disease. Prognostic and predictive marker use is usually determined on tumour tissue whereas surveillance and monitoring markers are measured in blood. The aim of this article is to review the role of both tissue and serum markers in the care of patients with breast cancer.
Hormone receptors (i.e. oestrogen and progesterone receptors) are carried out in order to determine endocrine-sensitivity of newly diagnosed breast cancers. For hormone receptor-positive patients, endocrine therapy should be administered, i.e. tamoxifen and/or an aromatase inhibitor for postmenopausal patients and tamoxifen and/or ovarian suppression/ablation for premenopausal patients. Hormone receptor-negative tumours should not be treated with endocrine therapy but are candidates for treatment with adjuvant chemotherapy. It is generally recommended that both oestrogen and progesterone receptors be measured together as patients derive maximum benefit from hormone therapy when both receptors are present.