Review Article | Published:

Clonal evolution in cancer

Nature volume 481, pages 306313 (19 January 2012) | Download Citation

Abstract

Cancers evolve by a reiterative process of clonal expansion, genetic diversification and clonal selection within the adaptive landscapes of tissue ecosystems. The dynamics are complex, with highly variable patterns of genetic diversity and resulting clonal architecture. Therapeutic intervention may destroy cancer clones and erode their habitats, but it can also inadvertently provide a potent selective pressure for the expansion of resistant variants. The inherently Darwinian character of cancer is the primary reason for this therapeutic failure, but it may also hold the key to more effective control.

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Acknowledgements

The research of M.G. is supported by Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research UK and The Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund. The research of C.M. is supported by Research Scholar Grant #117209-RSG-09-163-01-CNE from the American Cancer Society and NIH grants P01 CA91955, U54 CA143803, R01 CA149566 and R01 CA140657. The authors thank C.Cooper and J.Clark for the use of the image in Fig. 4.

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  1. Division of Molecular Pathology, The Institute of Cancer Research, Brookes Lawley Building, 15 Cotswold Road, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5NG, UK.

    • Mel Greaves
  2. Center for Evolution and Cancer, Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, Department of Surgery, University of California, 2340 Sutter Street PO Box 1351, San Francisco, California 94115, USA.

    • Carlo C. Maley

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Mel Greaves.

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