Precision cancer medicine and the doctor-patient relationship: a systematic review and narrative synthesis

Grauman*, M. Ancillotti, J. Veldwijk, D. Mascalzoni

*Corresponding author for this work

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The implementation of precision medicine is likely to have a huge impact on clinical cancer care, while the doctor-patient relationship is a crucial aspect of cancer care that needs to be preserved. This systematic review aimed to map out perceptions and concerns regarding how the implementation of precision medicine will impact the doctor-patient relationship in cancer care so that threats against the doctor-patient relationship can be addressed. 


Electronic databases (Pubmed, Scopus, Web of Science, Social Science Premium Collection) were searched for articles published from January 2010 to December 2021, including qualitative, quantitative, and theoretical methods. Two reviewers completed title and abstract screening, full-text screening, and data extraction. Findings were summarized and explained using narrative synthesis. 


Four themes were generated from the included articles (n = 35). Providing information addresses issues of information transmission and needs, and of complex concepts such as genetics and uncertainty. Making decisions in a trustful relationship addresses opacity issues, the role of trust, and and physicians’ attitude towards the role of precision medicine tools in decision-making. Managing negative reactions of non-eligible patients addresses patients’ unmet expectations of precision medicine. Conflicting roles in the blurry line between clinic and research addresses issues stemming from physicians’ double role as doctors and researchers. 


Many findings have previously been addressed in doctor-patient communication and clinical genetics. However, precision medicine adds complexity to these fields and further emphasizes the importance of clear communication on specific themes like the distinction between genomic and gene expression and patients’ expectations about access, eligibility, effectiveness, and side effects of targeted therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number286
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2023

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