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On Target is a recurring feature from STAT that dives deep into the most promising drug targets in oncology. 

The hunt for cancer cures has, to a large degree, been a hunt for biomarkers — DNA, peptides, RNA, proteins or more — that might set tumor cells apart from healthy tissue. With the right biomarker, scientists can find cancers earlier, monitor a treatment’s progress, or predict if a certain therapy will work for a given patient. The trouble is that for many cancers, the known biomarkers have been a disappointment, particularly for early cancer detection.


“You see all sorts of research groups looking at natural biomarkers,” said Amin Aalipour, a resident physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a synthetic biology researcher. “There’s limits to what we can do when you rely on what the tumor is willing to tell us.”

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