Tumor heterogeneity and personalized cancer medicine: are we being outnumbered?

Future Oncol. 2014 Feb;10(3):417-28. doi: 10.2217/fon.13.214.


Tumor heterogeneity is regarded as a major obstacle to successful personalized cancer medicine. The lack of reliable response assays reflective of in vivo tumor heterogeneity and associated resistance mechanisms hampers identification of reliable biomarkers. By contrast, oncogene addiction and paracrine signaling enable systemic responses despite tumor heterogeneity. This strengthens researchers in their efforts towards personalized cancer medicine. Given the fact that tumor heterogeneity is an integral part of cancer evolution, diagnostic tools need to be developed in order to better understand the dynamics within a tumor. Ultra-deep sequencing may reveal future resistant clones within a (liquid) tumor biopsy. On-treatment biopsies may provide insight into intrinsic or acquired drug resistance. Subsequently, upfront combinatorial treatment or sequential therapy strategies may forestall drug resistance and improve patient outcome. Finally, innovative response assays, such as organoid cultures or patient-derived tumor xenografts, provide an extra dimension to correlate molecular profiles with drug efficacy and control cancer growth.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Precision Medicine*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor