Mucins as Potential Biomarkers for Early Detection of Cancer

Shailendra K. Gautam, Parvez Khan, Gopalakrishnan Natarajan, Pranita Atri, Abhijit Aithal, Apar K. Ganti, Surinder K. Batra, Mohd W. Nasser, Maneesh Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Early detection significantly correlates with improved survival in cancer patients. So far, a limited number of biomarkers have been validated to diagnose cancers at an early stage. Considering the leading cancer types that contribute to more than 50% of deaths in the USA, we discuss the ongoing endeavors toward early detection of lung, breast, ovarian, colon, prostate, liver, and pancreatic cancers to highlight the significance of mucin glycoproteins in cancer diagnosis. As mucin deregulation is one of the earliest events in most epithelial malignancies following oncogenic transformation, these high-molecular-weight glycoproteins are considered potential candidates for biomarker development. The diagnostic potential of mucins is mainly attributed to their deregulated expression, altered glycosylation, splicing, and ability to induce autoantibodies. Secretory and shed mucins are commonly detected in patients’ sera, body fluids, and tumor biopsies. For instance, CA125, also called MUC16, is one of the biomarkers implemented for the diagnosis of ovarian cancer and is currently being investigated for other malignancies. Similarly, MUC5AC, a secretory mucin, is a potential biomarker for pancreatic cancer. Moreover, anti-mucin autoantibodies and mucin-packaged exosomes have opened new avenues of biomarker development for early cancer diagnosis. In this review, we discuss the diagnostic potential of mucins in epithelial cancers and provide evidence and a rationale for developing a mucin-based biomarker panel for early cancer detection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1640
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • autoantibodies
  • early cancer detection
  • exosomes
  • liquid biopsies
  • mucin biomarker

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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