Functional Precision Medicine Provides Clinical Benefit in Advanced Aggressive Hematologic Cancers and Identifies Exceptional Responders

Cancer Discov. 2022 Feb;12(2):372-387. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-0538. Epub 2021 Oct 11.


Personalized medicine aims to match the right drug with the right patient by using specific features of the individual patient's tumor. However, current strategies of personalized therapy matching provide treatment opportunities for less than 10% of patients with cancer. A promising method may be drug profiling of patient biopsy specimens with single-cell resolution to directly quantify drug effects. We prospectively tested an image-based single-cell functional precision medicine (scFPM) approach to guide treatments in 143 patients with advanced aggressive hematologic cancers. Fifty-six patients (39%) were treated according to scFPM results. At a median follow-up of 23.9 months, 30 patients (54%) demonstrated a clinical benefit of more than 1.3-fold enhanced progression-free survival compared with their previous therapy. Twelve patients (40% of responders) experienced exceptional responses lasting three times longer than expected for their respective disease. We conclude that therapy matching by scFPM is clinically feasible and effective in advanced aggressive hematologic cancers. SIGNIFICANCE: This is the first precision medicine trial using a functional assay to instruct n-of-one therapies in oncology. It illustrates that for patients lacking standard therapies, high-content assay-based scFPM can have a significant value in clinical therapy guidance based on functional dependencies of each patient's cancer.See related commentary by Letai, p. 290.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 275.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Austria
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Precision Medicine
  • Progression-Free Survival
  • Young Adult