Personalised cancer medicine

Int J Cancer. 2015 Jul 15;137(2):262-6. doi: 10.1002/ijc.28940. Epub 2014 May 12.


The evolving field of personalised medicine is playing an increasingly important role in cancer prevention, diagnosis, prognosis and therapeutics. Its importance in clinical management is demonstrated by the recent introduction into routine clinical practice of various individualised, molecularly targeted therapies with increased efficacy and/or reduced toxicity. The identification of cancer predisposition genes, such as the BRCA genes in breast cancer, permits screening programmes to identify patients "at-risk" of developing cancer and helps them make decisions on individual risk-modification behaviours. Personalised medicine also plays an increasingly important role in cancer treatment. It is increasingly clear that there are molecularly distinct subtypes of various common cancers, with different therapeutic approaches required for each subtype, for example, the use of the monoclonal antibodies (trastuzumab and cetuximab) in HER2-positive breast cancer and wild-type KRAS colorectal cancer; tyrosine kinase inhibitors (imatinib, gefitinib, erlotinib and crizotinib) in chronic myeloid leukaemia, gastrointestinal stromal tumours and non-small-cell lung cancer and intracellular agents (vemurafenib and olaparib) in metastatic malignant melanoma and ovarian, breast and prostate cancer. The efficacy of various targeted therapies in such disparate tumours suggests that we are entering an era in which treatment decisions will be based on tumour molecular abnormality profile or "signature," rather than tumour tissue type or anatomical site of origin, improving patient prognosis and quality of life. This mini review focuses on the role of personalised medicine in cancer prevention and treatment as well as its future direction in oncology.

Keywords: PARP inhibitor; cancer predisposition genes; monoclonal antibody; stratified medicine; synthetic lethality; tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Medical Oncology / trends
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / trends
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Precision Medicine / trends
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors