The extent of tumor heterogeneity is an emerging theme that researchers are only beginning to understand. How genetic and epigenetic heterogeneity affects tumor evolution and clinical progression is unknown. The precise nature of the environmental factors that influence this heterogeneity is also yet to be characterized. Nature Medicine, Nature Biotechnology and the Volkswagen Foundation organized a meeting focused on identifying the obstacles that need to be overcome to advance translational research in and tumor heterogeneity. Once these key questions were established, the attendees devised potential solutions. Their ideas are presented here.