The Valley of Death in anticancer drug development: a reassessment

Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2012 Apr;33(4):173-80. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2012 Mar 10.


The past decade has seen an explosion in our understanding of cancer biology and with it many new potential disease targets. Nonetheless, our ability to translate these advances into therapies is poor, with a failure rate approaching 90%. Much discussion has been devoted to this so-called 'Valley of Death' in anticancer drug development, but the problem persists. Could we have overlooked some straightforward explanations to this highly complex problem? Important aspects of tumor physiology, drug pharmacokinetics, preclinical models, drug delivery, and clinical translation are not often emphasized, but could be crucial. This perspective summarizes current views on the problem and suggests feasible alternatives.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Discovery / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents