Cancer is a heterogeneous disease and consequently an exact diagnosis is as important as the actual therapy. Therefore, identification of novel diagnostic biomarker targets is urgently needed. Physiological and pathological changes are reflected by post-translational modifications of proteins. Each post-translational modification (e.g., proteolytic cleavage) is the result of a specific local process and may produce disease-specific neoepitopes. Neoepitopes have been successfully used as biomarkers in many diseases, and may also serve as promising tools in the development of future diagnostic assays within oncology. By specifically targeting neoepitopes, more information regarding disease-type and -state may be obtained and future research into neoepitopes will provide important and novel means for the diagnosis, prognosis and treatment efficacy in cancer. In this paper, we focus on protein ectodomain shedding and the generation of neoepitopes as future noninvasive (serological) cancer biomarkers. We use the protein ectodomain shedding of the human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, which is associated with breast cancer, as an example. We assess the current status of measuring human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 and discuss how this potentially could be improved. Furthermore, we expand the discussion to include examples of other cancer associated proteins.




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