Diagnostic firms are working to create new tests that can detect rheumatoid arthritis earlier and also provide risk assessment profiles of patients that are more or less likely to suffer permanent physical damage as a result of the disease. [©Puwadol Jaturawutthichai/Shutterstock]
Diagnostic firms are working to create new tests that can detect rheumatoid arthritis earlier and also provide risk assessment profiles of patients that are more or less likely to suffer permanent physical damage as a result of the disease. [©Puwadol Jaturawutthichai/Shutterstock]

In oncology, more precise treatments for many different forms of cancer are in the offing, a prospect that makes oncologists the envy of other healthcare professionals. Already, cancer companion diagnostics can show doctors the specific drug that will be most effective in treating a particular subtype of cancer. Unfortunately, such specificity does not yet exist for diagnosing autoimmune diseases such as lupus, Sjogren’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

More definitive diagnostics are needed for autoimmune diseases. Technologies capable of predicting drug responses would be especially welcome. But there are many development challenges: autoimmune symptoms are similar to symptoms of many other diseases; the disease pathways for many autoimmune disorders aren’t clear; and autoimmune diseases are systemic—unlike solid tumor cancers, which start as highly localized disease.

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