The need for advancements in cancer care is dire: nearly 40 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with a form of the disease at some point in their lives. Fortunately, companion diagnostics used with targeted immunotherapies are becoming increasingly prevalent in the field, leading to better insights on disease biology, reduced cost of care and improved patient outcomes.

A growing market

“Precision medicine is all about delivering the right therapy to the right patient at the right time.”

“Precision medicine is all about delivering the right therapy to the right patient at the right time,” says David P. King, chairman and CEO of health care diagnostics company LabCorp. “Companion diagnostics and drugs are important parts of that equation.”

The global companion diagnostics market is projected to grow at 20 percent annually through 2022, but already there are more than 30 assays approved by the Food and Drug Administration for clinical use. LabCorp has helped develop three-quarters of them. “In 2016 alone, LabCorp participated in more than 60 companion diagnostic programs supporting 145 clinical protocols,” he says.

Companion, or complementary, diagnostics draw genetic information from patient samples, like a cancerous tumor biopsy, and analyze whether a therapy would be effective and safe for the patient. This result is associated with the therapy decision, and often the drug and diagnostic are approved for use simultaneously during development. This result is associated with the therapy decision, and often the drug and diagnostic are approved for use simultaneously during development.

Fast approval, broad application

“Oncology therapies that include a predictive biomarker, like a companion diagnostic, have a three-fold greater chance of success moving from Phase I to regulatory approval over those that do not use that approach,” says King, citing a 2016 Thomas BIO Industry Analysis.

He notes some of the most impactful companion diagnostics available include a new generation of cancer immunotherapies, as well as those for HER2-positive breast cancer.

Although cancer immunotherapy is a current focus, immunology and infectious diseases, rare and orphan diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease are other promising application areas, King says.

With help from these diagnostics, the future of cancer treatment seems bright.

“Precision medicine increasingly will play a role in our health care system as we work to deliver optimal outcomes at the most effective cost,” King says. “It will give patients more powerful information to help them understand and manage their own health care.”