Harnessing the predictive power of preclinical models for oncology drug development

Alexander Honkala, Sanjay V. Malhotra, Shivaani Kummar, Melissa R. Junttila

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Recent progress in understanding the molecular basis of cellular processes, identification of promising therapeutic targets and evolution of the regulatory landscape makes this an exciting and unprecedented time to be in the field of oncology drug development. However, high costs, long development timelines and steep rates of attrition continue to afflict the drug development process. Lack of predictive preclinical models is considered one of the key reasons for the high rate of attrition in oncology. Generating meaningful and predictive results preclinically requires a firm grasp of the relevant biological questions and alignment of the model systems that mirror the patient context. In doing so, the ability to conduct both forward translation, the process of implementing basic research discoveries into practice, as well as reverse translation, the process of elucidating the mechanistic basis of clinical observations, greatly enhances our ability to develop effective anticancer treatments. In this Review, we outline issues in preclinical-to-clinical translatability of molecularly targeted cancer therapies, present concepts and examples of successful reverse translation, and highlight the need to better align tumour biology in patients with preclinical model systems including tracking of strengths and weaknesses of preclinical models throughout programme development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-114
Number of pages16
JournalNature Reviews Drug Discovery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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