Correspondence | Published:

Molecular medicine

Precision oncology is not an illusion

Nature volume 539, page 357 (17 November 2016) | Download Citation

In our view, it is unreasonable to condemn personalized medicine for oncology on the basis of the limited success of a few trials (see V. Prasad Nature 537, S63; 2016). We suspect that those failures were more likely to be caused by shortcomings in methodology.

With more than 40 precision-oncology drugs on the market, such therapies are helping tens of thousands of US patients by targeting specific molecular abnormalities. For example, mutations in the gene that encodes the epidermal growth-factor receptor are likely to occur in 10% of the 186,240 or so new cases of non-small-cell lung cancer predicted for 2016 (see And the 8,220 people with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) predicted for this year will almost all carry the 'Philadelphia' chromosomal translocation (see

There are precision-oncology drugs to counteract both defects. Indeed, the life expectancy of people with CML is now starting to approach that of the general population (S. Saussele et al. Blood 126, 42–49; 2015).

Author information


  1. Personalized Medicine Coalition, Washington DC, USA.

    • Edward Abrahams
  2. Astellas, Northbrook, Illinois, USA.

    • Stephen L. Eck


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Competing interests

S.L.E. is an employee of Astellas and is on the board of Luminex. This Correspondence is the personal opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Astellas or the Personalized Medicine Coalition.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Edward Abrahams.

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