Tumour heterogeneity and drug resistance: personalising cancer medicine through functional genomics
Intrinsic and acquired drug resistance leads to the eventual failure of cancer treatment regimens in the majority of advanced solid tumours. Understanding drug resistance mechanisms will prove vital in the future development of personalised therapeutic approaches. Functional genomics technologies may permit the discovery of predictive biomarkers by unravelling pathways involved in drug resistance and allow the systematic identification of novel therapeutic targets. Such technologies offer the opportunity to develop personalised treatments and diagnostic tools that may improve the survival and quality of life of patients with cancer. However, despite progress in biomarker and drug target discovery, inter-tumour and intra-tumour molecular heterogeneity will limit the effective treatment of this disease. Combining an improved understanding of cancer cell survival mechanisms associated with intra-tumour heterogeneity and drug resistance may allow the selection of patients for specific treatment regimens that will maximise benefit, limit the acquisition of drug resistance and lessen the impact of deleterious side effects.