Clonal Heterogeneity and Tumor Evolution: Past, Present, and the Future

Cell. 2017 Feb 9;168(4):613-628. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.01.018.


Intratumor heterogeneity, which fosters tumor evolution, is a key challenge in cancer medicine. Here, we review data and technologies that have revealed intra-tumor heterogeneity across cancer types and the dynamics, constraints, and contingencies inherent to tumor evolution. We emphasize the importance of macro-evolutionary leaps, often involving large-scale chromosomal alterations, in driving tumor evolution and metastasis and consider the role of the tumor microenvironment in engendering heterogeneity and drug resistance. We suggest that bold approaches to drug development, harnessing the adaptive properties of the immune-microenvironment while limiting those of the tumor, combined with advances in clinical trial-design, will improve patient outcome.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm
  • Genetic Heterogeneity*
  • Genomic Instability
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology