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Lancet Oncol. 2010 Jan;11(1):75-84. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(09)70160-3.

Population-based differences in treatment outcome following anticancer drug therapies.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory in Oncology in South China, Sir Y K Pao Centre for Cancer, Department of Clinical Oncology, Hong Kong Cancer Institute, and Li Ka Shing Institute of Health Sciences, Chinese University of Hong Kong.


Population-based differences in toxicity and clinical outcome following treatment with anticancer drugs have an important effect on oncology practice and drug development. These differences arise from complex interactions between biological and environmental factors, which include genetic diversity affecting drug metabolism and the expression of drug targets, variations in tumour biology and host physiology, socioeconomic disparities, and regional preferences in treatment standards. Some well-known examples include the high prevalence of activating epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutations in pulmonary adenocarcinoma among northeast (China, Japan, Korea) and parts of southeast Asia (excluding India) non-smokers, which predict sensitivity to EGFR kinase inhibitors, and the sharp contrast between Japan and the west in the management and survival outcome of gastric cancer. This review is a critical overview of population-based differences in the four most prevalent cancers in the world: lung, breast, colorectal, and stomach cancer. Particular attention is given to the clinical relevance of such knowledge in terms of the individualisation of drug therapy and in the design of clinical trials.

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