Aneuploid tumor cells can arise through multipolar mitosis caused by supernumerary centrosomes. Multipolar spindles, however, are antagonistic to cell viability. Thus, most cells derived from such an aberrant mitosis would be eliminated by apoptosis. A rare daughter cell, through chance acquisition of an appropriate chromosome complement and/or gene dosage, could survive and contribute to a clone of aneuploid tumor cells. Survival and perpetuation of the clone, however, requires an additional step - the resumption of mitotic stability through the assembly of a bipolar, not multipolar, spindle. Either selective inactivation of the extra centrosomes or their coalescence into two functional spindle poles corrects the problem of centrosome excess. Current data support coalescence as a mechanism for regulating the number of functional centrosomes in tumor cells.