Review Article | Published:

Cells of origin in cancer

Nature volume 469, pages 314322 (20 January 2011) | Download Citation

Abstract

Both solid tumours and leukaemias show considerable histological and functional heterogeneity. It is widely accepted that genetic lesions have a major role in determining tumour phenotype, but evidence is also accumulating that cancers of distinct subtypes within an organ may derive from different 'cells of origin'. These cells acquire the first genetic hit or hits that culminate in the initiation of cancer. The identification of these crucial target cell populations may allow earlier detection of malignancies and better prediction of tumour behaviour, and ultimately may lead to preventive therapies for individuals at high risk of developing cancer.

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful to J. Adams, G. Lindeman and A. Strasser for critical review of the manuscript, P. Dirks for discussion and P. Maltezos for preparation of figures. I apologize to authors whose work could not be cited owing to space limitations. J.E.V. is supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Victorian Breast Cancer Research Consortium.

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Affiliations

  1. Stem Cells and Cancer Division, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia.  visvader@wehi.edu.au

    • Jane E. Visvader
  2. Department of Medical Biology, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.

    • Jane E. Visvader

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The author declares no competing financial interests.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature09781

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