For every therapy, there will be several patients who respond to it ("responders") and other patients who do not ("non-responders"). Unfortunately, the physician cannot recognize before the onset of the therapy whether the patient will be a responder or a non-responder. This fact has devastating consequences for the care of cancer patients:
- The majority of cancer patients treated with drugs are non-responders1. For every one of them the therapy had no chance of success from the outset.
- After months of treatment of a non-responder, the cancer will have progressed, and precious time will have been lost for other treatments that would have worked in earlier stages.
- The adverse reactions that many non-responders suffer from will lead to unnecessary impairment in the patients' quality of life.
- The enormous costs of the therapy for the numerous non-responders is a meaningless burden on both the health care system and the co-insured patients.
From these facts, it is evident that there is an urgent need for drugs with higher specificity for cancer cells (targeted therapies), as well as a need for biomarkers able to anticipate therapy response (predictive biomarkers). This need will increase in the future as the continual growth of the world population2 will lead to a steady increase in cancer incidence and demand for cancer therapies.
- Marrer E & Dieterle F (2008) Biomarkers in Oncology drug development: rescuers or troublemakers? Expert Opini Drug Metab Toxicol 4:1391-1402.
- Worldwide, the number of elderly people (60 years or older) will rise from 962 million in 2017 to 2.1 billion in 2050. In Europe, 25% of the population is already 60 years or older. That proportion is expected to reach 35% in 2050 (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (June 2017) World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision).