Epithelial tumors commonly show complex and variable karyotypes that obscure the identification of general patterns of the karyotypic evolution. To overcome some of these problems, we previously systematically analyzed the accumulated cytogenetic data from individual tumor types by using various statistical means. In the present study, we compare previous results obtained for nine tumor types and perform several meta-analyses of data obtained from a number of epithelial tumors, including head and neck, kidney, bladder, breast, colorectal, ovarian, and lung cancer, as well as from malignant melanoma and Wilms tumor, with the specific aim of discovering common patterns of karyotypic evolution. We show that these tumors frequently develop through a hypo- or a hyperdiploid pathway and progress by an increasing number of alternative imbalances through at least two karyotypic phases, Phases I and II, and possibly through a third, Phase III. During Phase I, the karyotypes exhibited a power law distribution of both the number of changes per tumor and the frequency distribution at which bands were involved in breaks. At the transition from Phase I to Phase II/III, the observed power law distributions were lost, indicating a transition from an ordered and highly structured process to a disordered and chaotic pattern. The change in karyotypic orderliness at the transition from Phase I to Phase II/III was also shown by a drastic difference in karyotypic entropy.
(c) 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.