Intra-tumor heterogeneity of cancer cells and its implications for cancer treatment

Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2015 Oct;36(10):1219-27. doi: 10.1038/aps.2015.92. Epub 2015 Sep 21.


Recent studies have revealed extensive genetic and non-genetic variation across different geographical regions of a tumor or throughout different stages of tumor progression, which is referred to as intra-tumor heterogeneity. Several causes contribute to this phenomenon, including genomic instability, epigenetic alteration, plastic gene expression, signal transduction, and microenvironmental differences. These variables may affect key signaling pathways that regulate cancer cell growth, drive phenotypic diversity, and pose challenges to cancer treatment. Understanding the mechanisms underlying this heterogeneity will support the development of effective therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Genomic Instability
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Signal Transduction