The somatic molecular evolution of cancer: Mutation, selection, and epistasis

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Cancer progression has been attributed to somatic changes in single-nucleotide variants, copy-number aberrations, loss of heterozygosity, chromosomal instability, epistatic interactions, and the tumor microenvironment. It is not entirely clear which of these changes are essential and which are ancillary to cancer. The dynamic nature of cancer evolution in a patient can be illuminated using several concepts and tools from classical evolutionary biology. Neutral mutation rates in cancer cells are calculable from genomic data such as synonymous mutations, and selective pressures are calculable from rates of fixation occurring beyond the expectation by neutral mutation and drift. However, these cancer effect sizes of mutations are complicated by epistatic interactions that can determine the likely sequence of gene mutations. In turn, longitudinal phylogenetic analyses of somatic cancer progression offer an opportunity to identify key moments in cancer evolution, relating the timing of driver mutations to corresponding landmarks in the clinical timeline. These analyses reveal temporal aspects of genetic and phenotypic change during tumorigenesis and across clinical timescales. Using a related framework, clonal deconvolution, physical locations of clones, and their phylogenetic relations can be used to infer tumor migration histories. Additionally, genetic interactions with the tumor microenvironment can be analyzed with longstanding approaches applied to organismal genotype-by-environment interactions. Fitness landscapes for cancer evolution relating to genotype, phenotype, and environment could enable more accurate, personalized therapeutic strategies. An understanding of the trajectories underlying the evolution of neoplasms, primary, and metastatic tumors promises fundamental advances toward accurate and personalized predictions of therapeutic response.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Dasari, K; Somarelli, JA; Kumar, S; Townsend, JP

Published Date

  • October 1, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 165 /

Start / End Page

  • 56 - 65

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0079-6107

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.pbiomolbio.2021.08.003

Citation Source

  • Scopus