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Genetic variation influences the response of an individual to drug treatments. Understanding this variation has the potential to make therapy safer and more effective by determining selection and dosing of drugs for an individual patient. In the context of cancer, tumours may have specific disease-defining mutations, but a patient's germline genetic variation will also affect drug response (both efficacy and toxicity), and here we focus on how to study this variation. Advances in sequencing technologies, statistical genetics analysis methods and clinical trial designs have shown promise for the discovery of variants associated with drug response. We discuss the application of germline genetics analysis methods to cancer pharmacogenomics with a focus on the special considerations for study design.