The advent of targeted therapy presents an unprecedented opportunity for advances in the treatment of cancer. A key challenge will be to translate the undoubted promise of targeted agents into tangible clinical benefits. Achieving this goal is likely to be dependent upon a number of factors. These include continued research to improve our understanding of the heterogeneity and complexity of the tumour microenvironment; refinement of clinical trial design to incorporate nontraditional end points such as the optimum biological dose and health-related quality of life; and the use of technological advancements in proteomics, genomics and biomarker development to better predict tumour types and patient subsets that may be particularly responsive to treatment, as well as enable a more accurate assessment of drug effect at the molecular level. In summary, the future success of targeted agents will require an integrated multidisciplinary approach involving all stakeholders.