Cancer is caused by changes to genes that control the way our cells function, especially how they grow and divide. These changes are called mutations.

Precision in care

A doctor can sometimes use new tools to identify a genetic mutation that is driving a tumor’s growth. This is common in colorectal, lung and breast cancers.

In some cases, a doctor can prescribe a drug that targets this genetic mutation, inhibiting the tumor’s development. These drugs are called personalized medicines.

By the numbers

Personalized medicines have already yielded tremendous breakthroughs.

For example, patients with myelogenous leukemia are now twice as likely to survive for at least five years, thanks in large part to a personalized medicine called imatinib.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is approving these kinds of medicines in record numbers. 35% of oncology drugs approved by FDA in 2015 are personalized medicines. At the moment, that's 5 drugs in total.

And because they are usually safer and more effective than traditional drugs, 73 percent of oncology drugs in development today are personalized medicines.