With advances in biomarker testing, the management of cancer will soon resemble that for chronic diseases, according to new US market forecasts.

Technological advances in diagnostics mean that physicians may shortly have real-time information about the tumour at various stages of patient management, says the study, from Frost & Sullivan. Future cancer biomarker tests will also be multiplexed and comprise multiple biomarker types, it adds.

As personalised medicine involves matching effective treatments to individuals based on their genetic disposition and other reliable factors, highly-specific biomarkers are critical for identifying likely responders from non-responders. Health insurance plans require clear evidence of the clinical utility of biomarker tests, says the report, which forecasts that revenues in the health plan reimbursement market for such products will rise from $7.86 billion in 2011 to $11.46 billion in 2017.

"Effective cancer patient management relies on specific and useful biomarkers that enable oncologists to diagnose, determine suitable therapies, continuously monitor response to therapy or monitor tumour progression. Consequently, personalised medicine is becoming a mainstream concept and the approaches to personalised medicine are increasingly understood by physicians and patients," says Winny Tan, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan. 

The market is set to become highly active, as generation sequencing becomes more affordable and cost-competitive with the prices of current tests that look at a single mutation. Additionally, the accelerated trend of out-licensing and therapy-companion diagnostic co-development across the industry is likely to increase the number of new cancer biomarker tests entering the market, says the study.

As these new tests will be highly complex to perform and interpret, cancer testing will become centralised and more cancer biomarker tests are likely to be commercialised from multi-centre research consortia.

The large number and variety of industry partnerships indicate that collaboration is vital to compete in the market, the report notes. Companies could partner with each other for companion diagnostic development, licensing agreements, clinical trial and R&D collaborations, distribution agreements and other commercialisation interests, it suggests.

While technology is not only advancing cancer patient management, it is also escalating the costs of cancer biomarker testing. Currently, new detection platforms such as next-generation sequencing are still more expensive than traditional slide-based cancer testing, and this deters several potential buyer groups, it goes on.

And while the commercial success of any diagnostic test depends on the clear evidence of its clinical utility, few biomarker discovery programmes participate in the clinical validation of new biomarkers. The high costs of clinical validation and limited return on investment are some of the reasons that few biomarkers have translated to diagnostic tests.