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Cancer heterogeneity: converting a limitation into a source of biologic information.

Cancer heterogeneity: converting a limitation into a source of biologic information.
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Rübben A, Araujo A,


Rübben A, Araujo A, (click to view)

Rübben A, Araujo A,

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Journal of translational medicine 2017 09 0815(1) 190 doi 10.1186/s12967-017-1290-9
Abstract

Analysis of spatial and temporal genetic heterogeneity in human cancers has revealed that somatic cancer evolution in most cancers is not a simple linear process composed of a few sequential steps of mutation acquisitions and clonal expansions. Parallel evolution has been observed in many early human cancers resulting in genetic heterogeneity as well as multilineage progression. Moreover, aneuploidy as well as structural chromosomal aberrations seems to be acquired in a non-linear, punctuated mode where most aberrations occur at early stages of somatic cancer evolution. At later stages, the cancer genomes seem to get stabilized and acquire only few additional rearrangements. While parallel evolution suggests positive selection of driver mutations at early stages of somatic cancer evolution, stabilization of structural aberrations at later stages suggests that negative selection takes effect when cancer cells progressively lose their tolerance towards additional mutation acquisition. Mixing of genetically heterogeneous subclones in cancer samples reduces sensitivity of mutation detection. Moreover, driver mutations present only in a fraction of cancer cells are more likely to be mistaken for passenger mutations. Therefore, genetic heterogeneity may be considered a limitation negatively affecting detection sensitivity of driver mutations. On the other hand, identification of subclones and subclone lineages in human cancers may lead to a more profound understanding of the selective forces which shape somatic cancer evolution in human cancers. Identification of parallel evolution by analyzing spatial heterogeneity may hint to driver mutations which might represent additional therapeutic targets besides driver mutations present in a monoclonal state. Likewise, stabilization of cancer genomes which can be identified by analyzing temporal genetic heterogeneity might hint to genes and pathways which have become essential for survival of cancer cell lineages at later stages of cancer evolution. These genes and pathways might also constitute patient specific therapeutic targets.

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