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Precision oncology for patients with advanced cancer: the challenges of malignant snowflakes.


Precision oncology implies customizing treatment to the unique molecular and biologic characteristics of each individual and their cancer. Its implementation is being facilitated by remarkable technological advances in genomic sequencing, as well as the increasing availability of targeted and immunotherapeutic drugs. Yet, next generation sequencing may be a disruptive technology in that its results suggest that classic paradigms for clinical research and practice are a poor fit with the complex reality encountered in metastatic malignancies. Indeed, it is evident that advanced tumors have heterogeneous molecular landscapes that mostly differ between patients. Traditional modes of clinical research/practice are drug centered, with a strategy of finding commonalities between patients so that they can be grouped together and treated similarly. However, if each patient with metastatic cancer has a unique molecular portfolio, a new patient-centered, N-of-one approach that utilizes individually tailored treatment is needed.

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