Breast cancer circulating biomarkers: advantages, drawbacks, and new insights

Andrea Ravelli, James M. Reuben, Francesco Lanza, Simone Anfossi, Maria Rosa Cappelletti, Laura Zanotti, Angela Gobbi, Chiara Senti, Paola Brambilla, Manuela Milani, Daniele Spada, Paolo Pedrazzoli, Massimo Martino, Alberto Bottini, Daniele Generali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As of today, the level of individualization of cancer therapies has reached a level that 20 years ago would be considered visionary. However, most of the diagnostic, prognostic, and therapy-predictive procedures which aim to improve the overall level of personalization are based on the evaluation of tumor tissue samples, therefore requiring surgical operations with consequent low compliance for patients and high costs for the hospital. Hence, the research of a panel of circulating indicators which may serve as source of information about tumor characteristics and which may be obtainable by a simple withdrawal of peripheral blood today represents a growing field of interest. This review aims to objectively summarize the characteristics of the currently available breast cancer circulating biomarkers, also providing an overview about the multitude of novel potential soluble predictors which are still under evaluation. Specifically, the usefulness of a so-called “liquid biopsy” will be discussed in terms of improvements of diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy-prediction, but an overview will be given also on the potentiality of the molecular characterization arising from the isolation of circulating biomarkers and cells. Although this review will focus on the specific case of the breast, in the future liquid biopsies will hopefully be available for virtually any type of neoplasms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6653-6665
Number of pages13
JournalTumor Biology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1 2015


  • Breast cancer circulating biomarkers
  • Breast cancer liquid biopsy
  • Circulating DNA
  • Circulating microRNA
  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Microvesicles and exosomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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