Low productivity and the escalating costs of drug development have been well documented over the past years. A fraction of new pre-clinical compounds successfully pass experimental test batteries, and less than 10% of these compounds that enter clinical trials ultimately make it to the market. These challenges in the “critical path” of drug development will be discussed for drugs in the field of oncology, regarding the i) the impact of FDA and EMEA guidelines, and ii) microdosing studies/phase 0 trials before a drug enters phase I to III, to inform drug development, compressing drug development timelines and decision-making for continuation into clinical trials. Moreover, this review should embark on i) how to find new key molecules involved in life-and-death decision of a cell, how ii) old drugs will have a revival for new indications, because of novel information for their mode of action, and iii) how the revolutionary advances - high-throughput technologies, gene therapy and the deciphering of the human genome - do have their potential to develop personalized therapy. Therapy has progressed from an age of administering herbal remedies and organ extracts to an era of meticulously planned drug discovery, when pharmaceutical industry was born in a Western understanding. The relevant patents are discussed.