Practical perspectives of personalized healthcare in oncology

N Biotechnol. 2012 Sep 15;29(6):656-64. doi: 10.1016/j.nbt.2012.03.001. Epub 2012 Mar 15.


There is an increasing prevalence of drug-diagnostic combinations in oncology. This has placed diagnostic stakeholders directly into the complex benefit-risk, cost, value and uncertainty-driven development paradigm traditionally the preserve of the drug development community. In this review we focus on the delivery of the clinical data required to advance such drug-diagnostic combination development programmes and ultimately satisfy regulators and payors of the value of contemporaneous changes in diagnostic and treatment practice. Ideally all stakeholders would like to initially estimate, and ultimately specify, the comparative benefit-risk for a new treatment option with and without changing diagnostic practice. Hence, in an ideal world clinical trial design is focused on acquiring biomarker treatment interaction data. In this review we describe the key scientific and feasibility inputs required to design and deliver such trials and the drivers, advantages and disadvantages associated with departing from this model. We do not discuss the discovery of new biomarkers nor the analytical validation and marketing of diagnostic products. Following on from trial design we describe how subsequent success then depends upon the concepts that guide trial design being driven into the complex world of large, multinational clinical trial delivery. For every aspect of a traditional clinical drug trial such as supply, recruitment and adherence, there is a corresponding concept for the diagnostic element. In practice, this means that each patient's contribution to the decision making data-set is subject to double jeopardy (attrition on clinical outcome and biomarker status). Historically, this has led to significantly reduced power for detecting biomarker-treatment interactions, reduced decision making confidence and a waste of valuable human and financial resources. We describe recent practice changes and experience that have led to the successful delivery of such trials focusing on both pre- and on trial aspects. The former includes the pivotal role of tissue banks in accurate estimation of evaluability and prevalence for biomarker assays and the latter several practices designed to engage and incentivize key stakeholders particularly CRAs and pathologists. The result is that in the new world of developing personalized treatments for cancer patients the real-time acquisition and monitoring of biomarker data receives similar support to that traditionally reserved for clinical outcome data and far more patients contribute to the testing of personalized medicine hypotheses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Precision Medicine*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor