It is a time of great promise and expectation for the applications of knowledge about mechanisms of cancer toward more effective and enduring therapies for human disease. Conceptualizations such as the hallmarks of cancer are providing an organizing principle with which to distill and rationalize the abject complexities of cancer phenotypes and genotypes across the spectrum of the human disease. A countervailing reality, however, involves the variable and often transitory responses to most mechanism-based targeted therapies, returning full circle to the complexity, arguing that the unique biology and genetics of a patient's tumor will in the future necessarily need to be incorporated into the decisions about optimal treatment strategies, the frontier of personalized cancer medicine. This perspective highlights considerations, metrics, and methods that may prove instrumental in charting the landscape of evaluating individual tumors so to better inform diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy. Integral to the consideration is remarkable heterogeneity and variability, evidently embedded in cancer cells, but likely also in the cell types composing the supportive and interactive stroma of the tumor microenvironment (e.g., leukocytes and fibroblasts), whose diversity in form, regulation, function, and abundance may prove to rival that of the cancer cells themselves. By comprehensively interrogating both parenchyma and stroma of patients' cancers with a suite of parametric tools, the promise of mechanism-based therapy may truly be realized.
Copyright © 2012 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.