Despite advances in diagnostics and therapy of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the problem of prognosis and prevention of tumor progression is still highly important. Even if NSCLC is diagnosed in the early stages, almost a quarter of patients develop relapse; most of them die from recurrent disease. A large number of different markers have been proposed to predict the risk of NSCLC progression; however, none of them are used in clinical practice. It is obvious that this situation is related to the economic and methodological complexity of the proposed markers and/or their insufficient efficiency due to a lack of effective study models and tumor heterogeneity. Another reason may be that potential markers are developed for NSCLC progression in general, which is represented by at least four pathogenetically-distinct processes: synchronous lymph node metastasis, local, regional, and distant recurrence. In this review, we summarize data from published literature on clinicopathological, genetic, and molecular factors associated with different types of NSCLC progression and emphasize challenges and approaches to developing prognostic factors. In conclusion, we highlight the importance of further studies to reveal molecular mechanisms of NSCLC progression and the need for differential analysis of markers of local, regional, and distant recurrences for disease prognosis.
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