Mutational heterogeneity in human cancers: origin and consequences

Annu Rev Pathol. 2010;5:51-75. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathol-121808-102113.


Cancer recapitulates Darwinian evolution. Mutations acquired during life that provide cells with a growth or survival advantage will preferentially multiply to form a tumor. As a result of The Cancer Genome Atlas Project, we have gathered detailed information on the nucleotide sequence changes in a number of human cancers. The sources of mutations in cancer are diverse, and the complexity of those found to be clonally present in tumors has increasingly made it difficult to identify key rate-limiting genes for tumor growth that could serve as potential targets for directed therapies. The impact of DNA sequencing on future cancer research and personalized therapy is likely to be profound and merits critical evaluation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Human Genome Project
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Neoplasm