The Future of Biomarkers: Lilly Oncology’s Perspective

When it comes to health, each patient presents with their own background, their own set of circumstances, and their own biology. When it comes to cancer, knowing a patient’s biology, especially a tumor’s biology, can be a roadmap to the right treatment plan and ultimately impact how well the patient may do. As little as a decade ago, cancer treatment commonly meant untargeted or nonspecific therapies like chemotherapy for many tumors, potentially leaving patients at risk for its side effects with varying benefits. Today, thanks to the use of biomarkers, we have a deeper understanding of the tumor biology, and we are able to look at what makes that tumor, and that patient, unique.

Lilly Oncology uses both predictive and prognostic biomarkers in its pursuit of precision medicine: the right medicine for the right patient at the right time. Predictive biomarkers look at a tumor’s molecular structure, such as mutations, to see how they might respond to therapies, while prognostic biomarkers can portend how that tumor is likely to behave. Used together, these characterizations can guide treatment, including medications and therapy sequencing that provides the best plan with the fewest side effects.

In the rapidly evolving field of oncology, Lilly Oncology’s research team is leveraging precision medicine and immuno-oncology to bring forth new medicines as fast as possible to help people living with cancer fight their disease. That includes characterizing and building on a strong foundation of existing therapies; understanding tumor biology to guide drug development in targeted populations; building combinations of medicines that provide maximum results with minimum side effects; prioritizing and investing in truly innovative medicines; and pursuing partnerships and collaborations that increase options for patients within and across tumor types.

While our understanding of tumors is, for the time being, outpacing the making of medicines that might target those specific features, the history of biomarker breakthroughs – from the early use of endocrine therapy in the treatment of breast and prostate cancer, to the discovery of EGFR mutations that led to more targeted treatment in many cancers, to the most recent wave of immuno-oncology – is our window to the future. Lilly is committed to using that information thoughtfully in our ongoing quest to discover and develop life-changing medicines for people living with cancer.