Experts at Cancer Research UK have said that improved knowledge of cancer's biology means 18 percent of new drugs, compared to 5 percent previously - will become standard treatments.
The hunt for cancer drugs is conducted on a large scale, but there is also a massive failure rate, as promising candidates fall by the wayside in clinical trials.
Although scientists can learn lessons even from expensive failures, this costs drug firms and charities such as Cancer Research UK many millions.
Now, it is hoped that many of them will be alternatives to conventional chemotherapy, which can have unpleasant and dangerous side-effects, targeting the mechanisms of cancer cells more directly, with less damage to healthy cells.
"This clearly demonstrates the benefits of developing molecularly targeted treatments for cancer - understanding more about the basic biology of cancer is making a real difference to the success rate for new anti-cancer drug development," BBC quoted Dr Ian Walker, the licensing manager at the charity's commercial development arm, as saying.
However, Professor Herbie Newell, from Cancer Research UK, said that minimising the number of 'failures' could be helped if researchers and drug companies were more open about what worked, and what did not.
"We strongly believe that both industry and academia must improve the availability of data related to failed as well as successful drug development programmes," Newell said.
"The sharing of such information can only be beneficial for clinical, scientific and commercial reasons - and will help measure our progress as well as pinpoint areas for improvement," Newell added.
The research was published in the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.