Whole-chromosomal instability (W-CIN) - unequal chromosome distribution during cell division - is a characteristic feature of a majority of cancer cells distinguishing them from their normal counterparts. The precise molecular mechanisms that may cause mis-segregation of chromosomes in tumor cells just recently became more evident. The consequences of W-CIN are numerous and play a critical role in carcinogenesis. W-CIN mediates evolution of cancer cell population under selective pressure and can facilitate the accumulation of genetic changes that promote malignancy. It has both tumor-promoting and tumor-suppressive effects, and their balance could be beneficial or detrimental for carcinogenesis. The characterization of W-CIN as a complex multi-layered adaptive phenotype highlights the intra- and extracellular adaptations to the consequences of genome reshuffling. It also provides a framework for targeting aggressive chromosomally unstable cancers.
Keywords: W-CIN; aneuploidy; cancer; chromosomal instability; intra-tumor heterogeneity.