Evolutionary trajectories of small cell lung cancer under therapy

Nature. 2024 Mar;627(8005):880-889. doi: 10.1038/s41586-024-07177-7. Epub 2024 Mar 13.


The evolutionary processes that underlie the marked sensitivity of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) to chemotherapy and rapid relapse are unknown1-3. Here we determined tumour phylogenies at diagnosis and throughout chemotherapy and immunotherapy by multiregion sequencing of 160 tumours from 65 patients. Treatment-naive SCLC exhibited clonal homogeneity at distinct tumour sites, whereas first-line platinum-based chemotherapy led to a burst in genomic intratumour heterogeneity and spatial clonal diversity. We observed branched evolution and a shift to ancestral clones underlying tumour relapse. Effective radio- or immunotherapy induced a re-expansion of founder clones with acquired genomic damage from first-line chemotherapy. Whereas TP53 and RB1 alterations were exclusively part of the common ancestor, MYC family amplifications were frequently not constituents of the founder clone. At relapse, emerging subclonal mutations affected key genes associated with SCLC biology, and tumours harbouring clonal CREBBP/EP300 alterations underwent genome duplications. Gene-damaging TP53 alterations and co-alterations of TP53 missense mutations with TP73, CREBBP/EP300 or FMN2 were significantly associated with shorter disease relapse following chemotherapy. In summary, we uncover key processes of the genomic evolution of SCLC under therapy, identify the common ancestor as the source of clonal diversity at relapse and show central genomic patterns associated with sensitivity and resistance to chemotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Clone Cells / drug effects
  • Clone Cells / metabolism
  • Clone Cells / pathology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Female
  • Genes, myc / genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Lung Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Lung Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / genetics
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Platinum* / pharmacology
  • Platinum* / therapeutic use
  • Recurrence
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma* / genetics
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma* / immunology
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma* / pathology
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma* / therapy


  • CREBBP protein, human
  • EP300 protein, human
  • Fmn2 protein, human
  • Platinum
  • RB1 protein, human
  • TP53 protein, human
  • TP73 protein, human