Article | May 23, 2023

Why Is Oncology Drug Development Late To The Digital Biomarkers Game?

Source: ActiGraph

By Tyler Guthrie, ActiGraph Lead of Scientific Affairs and Data Management


During the recent 2021 Annual ASCO Meeting, thousands of cancer researchers and clinicians from across the globe joined together virtually to present and discuss the latest findings and breakthroughs in cancer research and care. There were more than 5000 scientific abstracts presented during this event, yet only a handful involved the use of motion-tracking wearables to collect digital measures relating to activity, sleep, mobility, functional status, and/or quality of life. Although these results were a bit disappointing, they should come as no surprise to those of us in the wearable technology field.

Despite tremendous advances in precision medicine, immunotherapy, and targeted treatments over the last several decades, oncology drug development research has lagged behind other therapeutic areas in the adoption of wearable digital biomarker technologies, such as actigraphy. In fact, of the 207 (and counting) digital endpoints listed in the Digital Medicine Society’s (DiMe) crowd-sourced library of digital endpoints, none are being used in an oncology study. While the use of these technologies has steadily increased in CNS, cardiovascular, immunology, and metabolic disease studies, the pace of digital transformation within oncology research seems to have stagnated in comparison.

So what is it about oncology studies that sets them apart from other drug trials? After posing this question to several experts in the field and reviewing a plethora of scientific literature and industry commentary on this topic, I was able to categorize the barriers that emerged into two broad areas - study complexity and patient population.

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