Asthma biomarkers in the age of biologics
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The heterogeneous nature of asthma has been understood for decades, but the precise categorization of asthma has taken on new clinical importance in the era of specific biologic therapy. The simple categories of allergic and non-allergic asthma have given way to more precise phenotypes that hint at underlying biologic mechanisms of variable airflow limitation and airways inflammation. Understanding these mechanisms is of particular importance for the approximately 10% of patients with severe asthma. Biomarkers that aid in phenotyping allow physicians to "personalize" treatment with targeted biologic agents. Unfortunately, testing for these biomarkers is not routine in patients whose asthma is refractory to standard therapy. Scientific advances in the recognition of sensitive and specific biomarkers are steadily outpacing the clinical availability of reliable and non-invasive assessment methods designed for the prompt and specific diagnosis, classification, treatment, and monitoring of severe asthma patients. This article provides a practical overview of current biomarkers and testing methods for prompt, effective management of patients with severe asthma that is refractory to standard therapy.
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