Every tumour is different. They arise in patients with different genomes, from cells with different epigenetic modifications, and by random processes affecting the genome and/or epigenome of a somatic cell, allowing it to escape the usual controls on its growth. Tumours and patients therefore often respond very differently to the drugs they receive. Cancer precision medicine aims to characterise the tumour (and often also the patient) to be able to predict, with high accuracy, its response to different treatments, with options ranging from the selective characterisation of a few genomic variants considered particularly important to predict the response of the tumour to specific drugs, to deep genome analysis of both tumour and patient, combined with deep transcriptome analysis of the tumour. Here, we compare the expected results of carrying out such analyses at different levels, from different size panels to a comprehensive analysis incorporating both patient and tumour at the DNA and RNA levels. In doing so, we illustrate the additional power gained by this unusually deep analysis strategy, a potential basis for a future precision medicine first strategy in cancer drug therapy. However, this is only a step along the way of increasingly detailed molecular characterisation, which in our view will, in the future, introduce additional molecular characterisation techniques, including systematic analysis of proteins and protein modification states and different types of metabolites in the tumour, systematic analysis of circulating tumour cells and nucleic acids, the use of spatially resolved analysis techniques to address the problem of tumour heterogeneity as well as the deep analyses of the immune system of the patient to, e.g., predict the response of the patient to different types of immunotherapy. Such analyses will generate data sets of even greater complexity, requiring mechanistic modelling approaches to capture enough of the complex situation in the real patient to be able to accurately predict his/her responses to all available therapies.
Keywords: Comprehensive molecular tumour analysis; Drug response; Molecular characterisation; Molecular pathology; Molecular tumour board; Next-generation sequencing; Personalised medicine; Precision medicine; Precision medicine first; Tumour heterogeneity.
© 2017 S. Karger AG, Basel.