Biomarkers: the promise of customized therapies
Patients diagnosed with the same disease can show marked differences in individual response to a therapy: some may clearly benefit from treatment, while others may have no response or may experience adverse reactions.
To identify the basis for these different responses, Novartis has an extensive program of biomarker discovery to:
- Pinpoint a therapy suitable for an individual patient
- Verify initial response
- Monitor subsequent therapy response and disease progression
At the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR), our primary research organization, identification of biomarkers is a mandatory part of proposals for all new drug targets.
Biomarkers are measurable biological factors, such as gene activity, proteins, or chemical compounds that can act as indicators for how a disease or therapy is progressing. For instance, the abnormal Bcr-Abl protein can act as a biomarker for chronic myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Increasingly sophisticated biochemical or genetic markers are under development – from amyloid deposition in the case of Alzheimer’s disease or prostate specific antigen, a risk factor for prostate cancer – and used to diagnose and track progression of a disease.
In the area of drug toxicity, major research initiatives are underway to understand the molecular mechanisms causing adverse drug reactions and, ultimately, to find biomarkers that identify people at risk. This research builds on recent advances in multiple scientific disciplines such as bioinformatics, genomics, imaging technologies and materials science.