Intratumoral Heterogeneity: More Than Just Mutations

Trends Cell Biol. 2019 Jul;29(7):569-579. doi: 10.1016/j.tcb.2019.03.003. Epub 2019 Apr 12.


Most human tumors are composed of genetically and phenotypically heterogeneous cancer cell populations, which poses a major challenge for the clinical management of cancer patients. Advances of single-cell technologies have allowed the profiling of tumors at unprecedented depth, which, in combination with newly developed computational tools, enable the dissection of tumor evolution with increasing precision. However, our understanding of mechanisms that regulate intratumoral heterogeneity and our ability to modulate it has been lagging behind. Recent data demonstrate that epigenetic regulators, including histone demethylases, may control the cell-to-cell variability of transcriptomes and chromatin profiles and they may modulate therapeutic responses via this function. Thus, the therapeutic targeting of epigenetic enzymes may be used to decrease intratumoral cellular heterogeneity and treatment resistance, when used in combination with other types of agents.

Keywords: epigenetic; histone demethylase; transcriptomic heterogeneity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chromatin / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Transcriptome / genetics


  • Chromatin