Evolutionary dynamics of human cancers
Cancer Research UK Barts Centre / Queen Mary University of London
Cancers evolve, but the dynamics of the evolutionary process cannot typically be directly observed in patients. However, the evolutionary history of a tumour is surreptitiously encoded into the genome of cancer cells by the pattern of somatic mutations. I will discuss the development and application of methods to read this “secret history” of cancer evolution from the genome, using insights from classical population genetics theory. Interesting, we find that strong positive subclonal selection shapes cancer growth only infrequently, and most cancer evolution is near-neutral or negative. In colorectal cancer, the detection of neutral evolution is consistent expression data showing phenotypic plasticity is established at the outset of tumour growth.