Here, we report on the outcome of the 2nd International Danube Symposium on advanced biomarker development that was held in Vienna, Austria, in early 2018. During the meeting, cross-speciality participants assessed critical aspects of non-invasive, quantitative biomarker development in view of the need to expand our understanding of disease mechanisms and the definition of appropriate strategies both for molecular diagnostics and personalised therapies. More specifically, panelists addressed the main topics, including the current status of disease characterisation by means of non-invasive imaging, histopathology and liquid biopsies as well as strategies of gaining new understanding of disease formation, modulation and plasticity to large-scale molecular imaging as well as integrative multi-platform approaches. Highlights of the 2018 meeting included dedicated sessions on non-invasive disease characterisation, development of disease and therapeutic tailored biomarkers, standardisation and quality measures in biospecimens, new therapeutic approaches and socio-economic challenges of biomarker developments. The scientific programme was accompanied by a roundtable discussion on identification and implementation of sustainable strategies to address the educational needs in the rapidly evolving field of molecular diagnostics. The central theme that emanated from the 2nd Donau Symposium was the importance of the conceptualisation and implementation of a convergent approach towards a disease characterisation beyond lesion-counting "lumpology" for a cost-effective and patient-centric diagnosis, therapy planning, guidance and monitoring. This involves a judicious choice of diagnostic means, the adoption of clinical decision support systems and, above all, a new way of communication involving all stakeholders across modalities and specialities. Moreover, complex diseases require a comprehensive diagnosis by converging parameters from different disciplines, which will finally yield to a precise therapeutic guidance and outcome prediction. While it is attractive to focus on technical advances alone, it is important to develop a patient-centric approach, thus asking "What can we do with our expertise to help patients?"
Keywords: Biomarker; Ethics; Health economics; Liquid biopsies; Molecular and digital pathology; Molecular imaging; Omics technologies; Patient management; Pharmacology; Sample quality; Theranostics; Treatment.