Personalizing oncology treatments by predicting drug efficacy, side-effects, and improved therapy: mathematics, statistics, and their integration

Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Biol Med. 2014 May-Jun;6(3):239-53. doi: 10.1002/wsbm.1263. Epub 2014 Mar 6.


Despite its great promise, personalized oncology still faces many hurdles, and it is increasingly clear that targeted drugs and molecular biomarkers alone yield only modest clinical benefit. One reason is the complex relationships between biomarkers and the patient's response to drugs, obscuring the true weight of the biomarkers in the overall patient's response. This complexity can be disentangled by computational models that integrate the effects of personal biomarkers into a simulator of drug-patient dynamic interactions, for predicting the clinical outcomes. Several computational tools have been developed for personalized oncology, notably evidence-based tools for simulating pharmacokinetics, Bayesian-estimated tools for predicting survival, etc. We describe representative statistical and mathematical tools, and discuss their merits, shortcomings and preliminary clinical validation attesting to their potential. Yet, the individualization power of mathematical models alone, or statistical models alone, is limited. More accurate and versatile personalization tools can be constructed by a new application of the statistical/mathematical nonlinear mixed effects modeling (NLMEM) approach, which until recently has been used only in drug development. Using these advanced tools, clinical data from patient populations can be integrated with mechanistic models of disease and physiology, for generating personal mathematical models. Upon a more substantial validation in the clinic, this approach will hopefully be applied in personalized clinical trials, P-trials, hence aiding the establishment of personalized medicine within the main stream of clinical oncology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neutropenia / etiology
  • Precision Medicine*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers