Cancer is a complex and heterogeneous disease which is one of the leading causes of death in Western civilisations. Thus, oncology is viewed as a primary focus for personalized medicine. It is recognised that cancer treatment needs to be better tailored in order to improve patient outcome. Patient tumor samples will be required to characterize cancer at a molecular level and identify where there may be disease subgroups that should be treated differently. The use of formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tissue is important for enabling such studies. In this report, we focus on the challenges that have been faced to date along with the technological developments that have now made this possible. We also highlight the impact this may have on drug and diagnostic development.