Gastric cancer is among the most common cancers worldwide. Despite declining incidences, the prognosis remains dismal in Western countries and is better in Asian countries with national cancer screening programs. Complete endoscopic or surgical resection of the primary tumor with or without lymphadenectomy offers the only chance of cure in the early stage of the disease. Survival of more locally advanced gastric cancers was improved by the introduction of perioperative, adjuvant and palliative chemotherapy. However, the identification and usage of novel predictive and diagnostic targets is urgently needed. Areas covered: Recent comprehensive molecular profiling of gastric cancer proposed four molecular subtypes, i.e. Epstein-Barr virus-associated, microsatellite instable, chromosomal instable and genomically stable carcinomas. The new molecular classification will spur clinical trials exploring novel targeted therapeutics. This review summarizes recent advancements of the molecular classification, and based on that, putative pitfalls for the development of tissue-based companion diagnostics, i.e. prevalence of actionable targets and therapeutic efficacy, tumor heterogeneity and tumor evolution, impact of ethnicity on gastric cancer biology, and standards of care in the East and West. Expert commentary: The overall low prevalence of actionable targets and tumor heterogeneity are the two main obstacles of precision medicine for gastric cancer.
Keywords: Epstein-Barr virus; Gastric cancer; HER2; histology; microsatellite instability; molecular classification.