Biomarkers as Common Data Elements for Symptom and Self-Management Science.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Biomarkers as common data elements (CDEs) are important for the characterization of biobehavioral symptoms given that once a biologic moderator or mediator is identified, biologically based strategies can be investigated for treatment efforts. Just as a symptom inventory reflects a symptom experience, a biomarker is an indicator of the symptom, though not the symptom per se. The purposes of this position paper are to (a) identify a "minimum set" of biomarkers for consideration as CDEs in symptom and self-management science, specifically biochemical biomarkers; (b) evaluate the benefits and limitations of such a limited array of biomarkers with implications for symptom science; (c) propose a strategy for the collection of the endorsed minimum set of biologic samples to be employed as CDEs for symptom science; and (d) conceptualize this minimum set of biomarkers consistent with National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) symptoms of fatigue, depression, cognition, pain, and sleep disturbance.

Design and methods

From May 2016 through January 2017, a working group consisting of a subset of the Directors of the NINR Centers of Excellence funded by P20 or P30 mechanisms and NINR staff met bimonthly via telephone to develop this position paper suggesting the addition of biomarkers as CDEs. The full group of Directors reviewed drafts, provided critiques and suggestions, recommended the minimum set of biomarkers, and approved the completed document. Best practices for selecting, identifying, and using biological CDEs as well as challenges to the use of biological CDEs for symptom and self-management science are described. Current platforms for sample outcome sharing are presented. Finally, biological CDEs for symptom and self-management science are proposed along with implications for future research and use of CDEs in these areas.


The recommended minimum set of biomarker CDEs include pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines, a hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis marker, cortisol, the neuropeptide brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and DNA polymorphisms.


It is anticipated that this minimum set of biomarker CDEs will be refined as knowledge regarding biologic mechanisms underlying symptom and self-management science further develop. The incorporation of biological CDEs may provide insights into mechanisms of symptoms, effectiveness of proposed interventions, and applicability of chosen theoretical frameworks. Similarly, as for the previously suggested NINR CDEs for behavioral symptoms and self-management of chronic conditions, biological CDEs offer the potential for collaborative efforts that will strengthen symptom and self-management science.

Clinical relevance

The use of biomarker CDEs in biobehavioral symptoms research will facilitate the reproducibility and generalizability of research findings and benefit symptom and self-management science.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Page, GG; Corwin, EJ; Dorsey, SG; Redeker, NS; McCloskey, DJ; Austin, JK; Guthrie, BJ; Moore, SM; Barton, D; Kim, MT; Docherty, SL; Waldrop-Valverde, D; Bailey, DE; Schiffman, RF; Starkweather, A; Ward, TM; Bakken, S; Hickey, KT; Renn, CL; Grady, P

Published Date

  • May 2018

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 50 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 276 - 286

PubMed ID

  • 29575635

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC5945303

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1547-5069

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1527-6546

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/jnu.12378


  • eng