Single-Cell Sequencing for Precise Cancer Research: Progress and Prospects

Cancer Res. 2016 Mar 15;76(6):1305-12. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-15-1907. Epub 2016 Mar 3.


Advances in genomic technology have enabled the faithful detection and measurement of mutations and the gene expression profile of cancer cells at the single-cell level. Recently, several single-cell sequencing methods have been developed that permit the comprehensive and precise analysis of the cancer-cell genome, transcriptome, and epigenome. The use of these methods to analyze cancer cells has led to a series of unanticipated discoveries, such as the high heterogeneity and stochastic changes in cancer-cell populations, the new driver mutations and the complicated clonal evolution mechanisms, and the novel identification of biomarkers of variant tumors. These methods and the knowledge gained from their utilization could potentially improve the early detection and monitoring of rare cancer cells, such as circulating tumor cells and disseminated tumor cells, and promote the development of personalized and highly precise cancer therapy. Here, we discuss the current methods for single cancer-cell sequencing, with a strong focus on those practically used or potentially valuable in cancer research, including single-cell isolation, whole genome and transcriptome amplification, epigenome profiling, multi-dimensional sequencing, and next-generation sequencing and analysis. We also examine the current applications, challenges, and prospects of single cancer-cell sequencing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Genomics / methods
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Research
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*