Cancer treatment has been a shock-and-awe affair: Unleash an arsenal on the body and hope the bad cells are killed. Genentech (a division of Swiss pharma giant Roche) is leading a new, sniperlike approach. Last summer, its Zelboraf got FDA approval as the first drug to target and shut down a gene mutation associated with about half of melanoma cases. Analysts expect annual sales to hit $732 million by 2015. "The era of personalized health care is becoming a reality," says Richard Scheller, Genentech's head of research and early development. Genentech has other targeted treatments in the pipeline. Coming soon: a promising drug for breast cancer.
Illustration by Peter Oumanski