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A biomarker is a biological measure that can be used to detect or monitor a feature of a disease, such as cancer.

Why are they important?

Biomarkers can measure whether cancer has progressed or if it is likely to respond to treatment. Various measures can be used as biomarkers – including genetic mutations, proteins produced by tumours, or physical or biological changes detected on a scan. 

At The Institute of Cancer Research, London, we lead the way in biomarker research. At the Drug Development Unit, for example – a joint unit of the ICR and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust – we have had great success in using biomarkers to drive clinical trials that investigate new cancer treatments.

Read our consensus statements on biomarkers