Clonal evolution models of tumor heterogeneity

Liran I. Shlush, Dov Hershkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Somatic/clonal evolution is the process of sequential acquisition of vertically transmittable genetic/epigenetic elements in multicellular organisms. Cancer is the result of somatic evolution. Understanding the processes that shape the evolution of individual tumors might help us to treat cancer more efficiently. The initiating genetic/epigenetic events occur in functional cells and provide the cell of origin a selective advantage under a changing environment. The initiating genetic events tend to be enriched in specific tissues (and are sometimes specific for those tissues), as different tissues undergo different changes in the environment that will activate selective forces on different cells of origin. For the initial clonal expansion to occur premalignant clones need to have a relative fitness advantage over their competitors. It is estimated that the premalignant phase can take several years. Once the premalignant clonal expansion is established, the premalignant cells will contribute to the changing environment and will start competing among themselves. In late stages of cancer evolution the environmental changes might be similar across different tissues, including a lack of physical space, a shortage of energy, and activation of the immune system, and more and more of the hallmarks of cancer will evolve. In this review we will explore the possible clinical relevance of the heterogeneity that evolves during this long somatic evolution. Above all, it should be stressed that the earlier the clonal expansion is recognized, the less diverse and less fit for survival the cells in the population are.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e662-e665
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Society of Clinical Oncology educational book / ASCO. American Society of Clinical Oncology. Meeting
StatePublished - May 2015
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Medicine


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