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EJC News Focus – December 2013

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Precision diagnostics: great potential but is Europe falling behind?

Molecular diagnostics are becoming increasingly important as oncology moves from an era of stratification to personalisation; precision medicine will develop hand in hand with new diagnostic techniques. But according to ESMO President Martine Piccart, there is 'a high unmet need' for molecular diagnostics in Europe. Pharmaceutical companies have little incentive to invest in their development, she says, mainly because of the lack of a clear regulatory path, but also because of the reluctance among oncologists to use available tests.

The groundbreaking SHIVA trial is an excellent example of the central role of the new diagnostics: patients' treatment is determined only by the molecular profile of their tumour, without reference to its anatomical location. Christophe Le Tourneau (Institut Curie, Paris) presented early data at the European Cancer Conference (Amsterdam, Sept 27 – Oct 1, 2013), which hints at the promise of this approach.

In this month's EJC News Focus, Martine Piccart outlines to Helen Saul the cultural and practical changes that will be necessary to drive the development of diagnostics in Europe, and Christophe Le Tourneau demonstrates how these new precision diagnostics could drive progress in oncology.