Molecular Biology: Are We Getting Any Closer to Providing Clinically Useful Information?
Advances in molecular biology and biomarker research have significantly impacted our understanding and treatment of multiple solid malignancies. In rectal cancer, where neoadjuvant chemoradiation is widely used for locally advanced disease, most efforts have focused on the identification of predictors of response in an attempt to appropriately select patients for multimodality therapy. A variety of biomarkers have been studied, including genetic mutations, chromosomal copy number alterations, and single as well as multigene expression patterns. Also, as transanal resection of rectal tumors requires accurate preoperative detection of lymph node metastasis, the identification of biomarkers of regional nodal involvement has been another important field of active research. While preliminary results have been promising, lack of external validation means has a limited translation to clinical use. This review summarizes recent developments in rectal cancer biomarker research, highlighting the challenges associated with their adoption, and evaluating their potential for clinical use.