Personalized cancer medicine--advances and socio-economic challenges

Nat Rev Clin Oncol. 2011 Oct 11;8(12):735-41. doi: 10.1038/nrclinonc.2011.151.


It was Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, who first emphasized the patient as the most important determinant of therapeutic efficacy. Although the principle of adjusting treatment to specific patient characteristics has since been the strategy of physicians, this is undermined by a population-biased approach to drug development. Therefore, it is generally true to say that our current evidential approach to cancer treatment is driven more by drug-regulation requirements and market considerations than the specific needs of an individual patient. But, with cancer drug costs now spiraling out of control and the modest efficacy typically seen in patients, the community is again turning to Hippocrates' ancient paradigm--this time with emphasis on molecular considerations. Rapidly evolving technologies are empowering us to describe the molecular 'nature' of a patient and/or tumor and with this has come the beginning of truly personalized medicine, with maximized efficacy, cost effectiveness and hopefully improved survival for the patient.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / economics*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Precision Medicine / economics*