Standardized processes should be used in the identification and development of intermediate endpoint biomarkers (IEB) for the prediction of patient-specific disease outcomes. Using our own experiences, we outline some of our standardized processes. Using computer-assisted image analysis, we developed a new biomarker of genetic instability, termed quantitative nuclear grade (QNG). The QNG biomarker is derived using nuclear images analyzed from the tumor areas of Feulgen-stained 5-μm biopsy or radical prostatectomy tissue sections. From the variances of 41 to 60 different nuclear size, shape, and chromatin organization features, a QNG solution is computed using either logistic regression or artificial neural networks. QNG can then be used as an input for models that solve for a patient-specific probability to accurately predict disease outcomes. Preoperatively, QNG predicted both the pathologic stage and progression of prostate cancer using biopsies (P <0.0001). Postoperatively, QNG proved extremely valuable in the prediction of biochemical progression using radical prostatectomy specimens with more than 10 years of follow-up (P <0.0001). We also demonstrate the identification of novel, differentially expressed, prostate cancer genes using RNA fingerprinting methods and the clinical utility of testing for these genes in both blood and tissue samples. Also illustrated is the improvement of serum biomarker performance by combining molecular forms of PSA with new biomarkers. In conclusion, the development of new IEBs requires planning based upon an understanding of the molecular pathogenesis of disease. IEB selection and clinical evaluation should employ standardized methods of testing and validation, followed by publication. QNG is 1 example of a new, highly predictive, IEB for prostate cancer that has been developed using these processes.
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