Colorectal cancer is currently the third most common malignancy in the world. Patients have excellent prognosis following surgical resection if their tumour is still localized at diagnosis. By contrast, once the tumour has started to metastasize, prognosis is much poorer. Accurate early detection can therefore significantly reduce the mortality from this disease. However, current tests either lack the required sensitivity and selectivity or are costly and invasive. Improved biomarkers, or panels of biomarkers, are therefore urgently required. We have addressed current screening strategies and potential protein biomarkers that have been proposed. The role of both discovery and hypothesis-driven proteomics approaches for biomarker discovery and validation is discussed. Using such approaches we show how multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) can be successfully developed and used for quantitative multiplexed analysis of potential faecal biomarkers. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.