The challenges of tumor genetic diversity.

Mroz EA, Rocco JW
Cancer 123 917-927 01/15/2017


The authors review and discuss the implications of genomic analyses documenting the diversity of tumors, both among patients and within individual tumors. Genetic diversity among solid tumors limits targeted therapies, because few mutations that drive tumors are both targetable and at high prevalence. Many more driver mutations and how they affect cellular signaling pathways must be identified if targeted therapy is to become widely useful. Genetic diversity within a tumor-intratumor genetic heterogeneity-makes the tumor a collection of subclones: related yet distinct cancers. Selection for pre-existing, resistant subclones by conventional or targeted therapies may explain many treatment failures. Immune therapy faces the same fundamental challenges. Nevertheless, the processes that generate and maintain heterogeneity might provide novel therapeutic targets. Addressing both types of diversity requires genomic tumor analyses linked to detailed clinical data. The trend toward sequencing restricted cancer gene panels, however, limits the ability to discover new driver mutations and assess intratumor heterogeneity. Clinical data currently collected with genomic analyses often lack critical information, substantially limiting their use in understanding tumor diversity. Now that diversity among and within tumors can no longer be ignored, research and clinical practice must adapt to take diversity into account. Cancer 2017;123:917-27. © 2016 American Cancer Society.

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