Prognostic and predictive biomarkers in early stage NSCLC: CTCs and serum/plasma markers
Resection of early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) offers patients the best hope of cure, however recurrence rates post-resection remain high suggesting the presence of micro-metastatic disease at the time of surgery undetected by standard staging methods. A critical step in the metastatic cascade is the entry of tumor cells into the circulation enabling their distribution to and seeding of distant organs. This review explores the evidence for predictive and prognostic circulating biomarkers in the early stage NSCLC population. We summarize studies that have explored a variety of targets including circulating proteins, nucleic acids and more recently circulating tumor cells (CTCs) as potentially clinically relevant biomarkers in the early stage setting. Circulating biomarkers may add clinically relevant information about the biological behavior of tumors over and above that provided by pathological staging. Improvement in the stratification of patients according to the likelihood of metastatic relapse after radical treatments such as surgical resection could allow more effective targeting of systemic therapies such as adjuvant chemotherapy.