PanDrugs: a novel method for prioritization of anticancer drug treatments according to individual genomic profiles.

An article published today in Genome Medicine showcases a new open-source tool which evaluates the genomic profiles of cancer patients in order to identify opportunities for therapeutic intervention. The authors hope that this novel method will help towards establishing prevention medicine more broadly in hospital settings.


Identifying the most appropriate therapies from cancer genome data is a major challenge in personalized cancer medicine. Physicians and researchers are faced with long lists of tumor-specific genomic variants where most variants are clinically “unactionable”- meaning either their biological role is unknown or is irrelevant for tumor biology. In addition, the current list of known cancer driver genes has clinical limitations since genomic alterations in these genes may be essential for tumor development, tumor cell growth and survival but the same genes may not be targetable by current therapies.

This scenario demands novel bioinformatics methods to interpret genomic alterations, evaluate their clinical relevance and drug feasibility, and provide a prioritized evidence-based list of tailored anticancer therapies to facilitate clinical decision making.

Introducing PanDrugs

We have developed PanDrugs, a novel data-driven method to evaluate cancer patients’ genomic profiles, according to their biological and clinical relevance and opportunities for therapeutic intervention. The methodology scans PanDrugs database (PanDrugsdb) and return prioritized candidate drugs and targetable genes estimated from a list of genomic variants (or genes) provided by a user.


(Open image in new tab for full size view)
Image provided by authors

PanDrugs operates by incorporating two scores, which integrate a variety of clinical, biological and pharmacological sources to suggest tailored anticancer therapies. The Gene Score (GScore) is based on the level of evidence supporting gene clinical implication and its biological relevance in cancer and the Drug Score (DScore) estimates drug response and treatment suitability.

Another unique feature compared with current tools is the broadening of the search space to provide therapeutic options. In other words, PanDrugs suggests treatments for direct targets (e.g. genes that contribute to disease phenotype and can be directly targeted by an available drug) and biomarkers (e.g. genes that can be predictive of a drug response but the protein product is not the drug target itself).

However, PanDrugs also integrates a systems biology knowledge-based layer that automatically inspects biological circuits expanding cancer candidate therapies beyond cancer-related gene lists to the whole druggable pathway. This novel “pathway member” strategy extends the treatment opportunities of cancer patients and opens new avenues for personalized medicine. In the article, we apply this strategy to show how prostate, breast and colorectal cancer patients without druggable cancer driver altered genes would be benefited by treatments used in clinical practice.

The PanDrugs database itself represents a valuable publically-accessible resource. This database is the largest public repository of drug-target associations available from well-known targeted therapies to preclinical drugs. Current version of PanDrugsdb integrates data from 24 primary sources and supports >56,000 drug-target associations. Both PanDrugs and PanDrugsdb are open-source and fully available at

Translational applications

PanDrugs supports clinical decision making by providing a way to study molecular profiles in cancer patients, and it can be easily implemented with others variant analysis software in healthcare institutions. PanDrugs is being extensively used to analyze patients´ sequencing data generated in our institution and propose treatments – an example of which is described in our Genome Medicine article.

In addition, PanDrugs has been systematically applied on a cohort of 7,069 patients from the TCGA project  that correspond to 20 different tumor types. Full results may be interactively accessed at the PanDrugs website.

PanDrugs perspectives

Personalized cancer treatment is still taking its first steps. Before it can become the norm, hospitals need quick, reproducible, approachable and low cost computational methods to detect altered genes, to interpret the biological and clinical impact of such alterations, to establish therapeutic guidance based on the patient’s genomic profile and to achieve knowledge-driven clinical assessment though health-record data mining.

PanDrugs is the first method to systematically infer novel targeted treatments following a rational framework supported by multi-gene markers, molecular pathway context and pharmacological evidence.

Although PanDrugs offers a valuable methodology for in silico prescription, our method is limited by the lack of large longitudinal precision medicine studies with accessible medical records. Such studies are crucial to assess and validate drug proposals and improve in silico prescription algorithms that consider additional factors such as mode of drug administration, combinatorial therapies, drug repositioning and side effects. Further efforts are also required to improve cancer treatment by developing more effective drugs and anticipating drug resistance.

Nowadays, there are significant challenges that need to be addressed in order for precision medicine to be broadly established in the hospital environment; however, PanDrugs contributes one of the missing links between the potential of biomarkers as predictive tools for treatment outcome and their actual use in clinical settings.

The authors want to thank PanDrugs users for sending valuable suggestions to improve the method. They also encourage cancer researchers and physicians to try PanDrugs by themselves and send feedback to bring it closer to the daily clinical practice.

View the latest posts on the On Medicine homepage


Spencer Ryce

Questions to ask your health care team
Consider asking your health care team these questions about your follow-up care:

What is the risk of the cancer returning? Are there signs and symptoms I should watch for?

What should I do if I notice one of these symptoms?

What long-term side effects or late effects are possible based on the cancer treatment I received?

What tests will I need when I go for my follow-up visits?

What screening tests do you recommend based on the treatments I had?

How long will I need to continue getting screening tests?

Do I need to take any special medications or follow a special diet?

Do I need to be referred to a specialist?

What can I do to lower my risk of the cancer coming back or developing a second cancer?

What survivorship support services are available to me? To my family?

And don’t hesitate to ask “Can you buy meds online?” There are too many online stores like amazon, walmart, healthkart and mygenericpharmacy etc.

Spencer Ryce

Multi-drug resistance (MDR) in the cancer chemotherapy has been pointed out as the ability of cancer cells to survive against a wide range of anti-cancer drugs. MDR mechanism may be developed by increased release of the drug outside the cells. So the drug absorption is reduced in these cells.

Always use doctor prescribed meds if buying from online stores like mygenericpharmacy or any other stores.

Comments are closed.