Biomarker Qualification for Neurofilament Light Chain in Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: Theory and Practice

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OBJECTIVE: To explore whether the utility of neurofilament light chain (NfL), as a biomarker to aid amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) therapy development, would be enhanced by obtaining formal qualification from the US Food and Drug Administration for a defined context-of-use. METHODS: Consensus discussion among academic, industry, and patient advocacy group representatives. RESULTS: A wealth of scientific evidence supports the use of NfL as a prognostic, response, and potential safety biomarker in the broad ALS population, and as a risk/susceptibility biomarker among the subset of SOD1 pathogenic variant carriers. Although NfL has not yet been formally qualified for any of these contexts-of-use, the US Food and Drug Administration has provided accelerated approval for an SOD1-lowering antisense oligonucleotide, based partially on the recognition that a reduction in NfL is reasonably likely to predict a clinical benefit. INTERPRETATION: The increasing incorporation of NfL into ALS therapy development plans provides evidence that its utility-as a prognostic, response, risk/susceptibility, and/or safety biomarker-is already widely accepted by the community. The willingness of the US Food and Drug Administration to base regulatory decisions on rigorous peer-reviewed data-absent formal qualification, leads us to conclude that formal qualification, despite some benefits, is not essential for ongoing and future use of NfL as a tool to aid ALS therapy development. Although the balance of considerations for and against seeking NfL biomarker qualification will undoubtedly vary across different diseases and contexts-of-use, the robustness of the published data and careful deliberations of the ALS community may offer valuable insights for other disease communities grappling with the same issues. ANN NEUROL 2023.

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Annals of neurology



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