Development of biomarkers in multiple sclerosis

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Multiple sclerosis is a complex disease, as several pathophysiological processes (including inflammation, demyelination, axonal damage and repair mechanisms) participate in the disease process. Furthermore, as new pathological evidence reveals, these processes are not uniformly represented across patient populations but can selectively predominate in individual patients, thus contributing to the heterogeneity in phenotypic expression of the disease, its prognosis and response to therapies. While the armamentarium of available therapies for multiple sclerosis broadens, little is known about factors that predict treatment response in individual patients to a specific drug. More importantly, we are beginning to understand that, analogous to cancer therapy, the successful therapeutic strategy in multiple sclerosis might ultimately involve the combination of different therapeutics targeting several dominant pathophysiological processes. The development of these process-specific therapies will be impossible without the use of biomarkers that reflect the targeted process, can select patient population in which the targeted process is prevailing and can aid during the more rapid screening of therapeutic agents in the early phase of their development. This review summarizes the general concepts of biomarkers and their potential use as surrogate endpoints and tailors these concepts to specific applications in multiple sclerosis research.

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