High molecular weight mucins represent a unique challenge as tumor markers by virtue of their complex array of epitopes, The list is dominated by the high molecular weight mucins MUC1, CEA and CA125. While the currently accepted role for these tumor markers is in the prediction and detection of relapse, it is possible that their sensitivity and specificity can be improved. Although immunoassays detecting the tumor marker MUC1 are both sensitive and specific for predicting relapse in breast cancer, so far they are not in widespread use in the follow-up of this disease. Are there new combinations of conventional reagents that could improve assay sensitivity, or should we be looking for more radical changes in assay design incorporating combinatorial technology? Copyright (C) 2001 S. Karger AG, Basel.