Disparity between Inter-Patient Molecular Heterogeneity and Repertoires of Target Drugs Used for Different Types of Cancer in Clinical Oncology

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Feb 26;21(5):1580. doi: 10.3390/ijms21051580.


Inter-patient molecular heterogeneity is the major declared driver of an expanding variety of anticancer drugs and personalizing their prescriptions. Here, we compared interpatient molecular heterogeneities of tumors and repertoires of drugs or their molecular targets currently in use in clinical oncology. We estimated molecular heterogeneity using genomic (whole exome sequencing) and transcriptomic (RNA sequencing) data for 4890 tumors taken from The Cancer Genome Atlas database. For thirteen major cancer types, we compared heterogeneities at the levels of mutations and gene expression with the repertoires of targeted therapeutics and their molecular targets accepted by the current guidelines in oncology. Totally, 85 drugs were investigated, collectively covering 82 individual molecular targets. For the first time, we showed that the repertoires of molecular targets of accepted drugs did not correlate with molecular heterogeneities of different cancer types. On the other hand, we found that the clinical recommendations for the available cancer drugs were strongly congruent with the gene expression but not gene mutation patterns. We detected the best match among the drugs usage recommendations and molecular patterns for the kidney, stomach, bladder, ovarian and endometrial cancers. In contrast, brain tumors, prostate and colorectal cancers showed the lowest match. These findings provide a theoretical basis for reconsidering usage of targeted therapeutics and intensifying drug repurposing efforts.

Keywords: cancer drugs; chemotherapy; clinical oncology; genome; molecular diagnostics; mutations; personalized medicine; targeted therapeutics; transcriptome; tumor heterogeneity.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Drug Delivery Systems*
  • Drug Therapy
  • Exome Sequencing
  • Genetic Heterogeneity*
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology / methods*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Pathology, Molecular
  • Precision Medicine / methods
  • Transcriptome


  • Antineoplastic Agents