The identification of molecules that can reliably detect the presence of a tumor or predict its behavior is one of the biggest challenges of research in cancer biology. Biological fluids are intriguing mediums, containing many molecules that express the individual health status and, accordingly, may be useful in establishing the potential risk of cancer, defining differential diagnosis and prognosis, predicting the response to treatment, and monitoring the disease progression. The existence of circulating soluble growth factor receptors (sGFRs) deriving from their membrane counterparts has stimulated the interest of researchers to investigate the use of such molecules as potential cancer biomarkers. But what are the origins of circulating sGFRs? Are they naturally occurring molecules or tumor-derived products? Among these, the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is a cell-surface molecule significantly involved in cancer development and progression; it can be processed into biological active soluble isoforms (sEGFR). We have carried out an extensive review of the currently available literature on the sEGFRs and their mechanisms of regulation and biological function, with the intent to clarify the role of these molecules in cancer (and other pathological conditions) and, on the basis of the retrieved evidences, speculate about their potential use in the clinical setting.
- Circulating biomarkers
- Soluble epidermal growth factor receptor (sEGFR)
- Soluble receptors