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The causes and consequences of genetic heterogeneity in cancer evolution

Nature volume 501, pages 338345 (19 September 2013) | Download Citation

Abstract

Recent studies have revealed extensive genetic diversity both between and within tumours. This heterogeneity affects key cancer pathways, driving phenotypic variation, and poses a significant challenge to personalized cancer medicine. A major cause of genetic heterogeneity in cancer is genomic instability. This instability leads to an increased mutation rate and can shape the evolution of the cancer genome through a plethora of mechanisms. By understanding these mechanisms we can gain insight into the common pathways of tumour evolution that could support the development of future therapeutic strategies.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to apologize to those whose work we have not been able to cite owing to space limitations. C.S. is funded by Cancer Research UK, The Medical Research Council, EU FP7 (projects PREDICT and RESPONSIFY), Prostate Cancer Foundation and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). J.B. is funded by the Danish Cancer Society and the European Commission (projects DDResponse and Biomedreg). We thank E. Grönroos and P. Gorman for the use of the tumour section image in Fig. 1.

Author information

Author notes

    • Rebecca A. Burrell
    •  & Nicholas McGranahan

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Translational Cancer Therapeutics Laboratory, Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, 44 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LY, UK.

    • Rebecca A. Burrell
    • , Nicholas McGranahan
    •  & Charles Swanton
  2. Centre for Mathematics and Physics in the Life Sciences and Experimental Biology (CoMPLEX), University College London, Physics Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

    • Nicholas McGranahan
  3. Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Strandboulevarden 49, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark.

    • Jiri Bartek
  4. Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine, Palacky University Olomouc CZ-775 15, Czech Republic.

    • Jiri Bartek
  5. UCL Cancer Institute, Paul O'Gorman Building, Huntley Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK.

    • Charles Swanton

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Charles Swanton.

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