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Nature. 2013 Sep 19;501(7467):328-37. doi: 10.1038/nature12624.

Tumour heterogeneity and cancer cell plasticity.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Children's Research Institute and Department of Pediatrics, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas 75390, USA.


Phenotypic and functional heterogeneity arise among cancer cells within the same tumour as a consequence of genetic change, environmental differences and reversible changes in cell properties. Some cancers also contain a hierarchy in which tumorigenic cancer stem cells differentiate into non-tumorigenic progeny. However, it remains unclear what fraction of cancers follow the stem-cell model and what clinical behaviours the model explains. Studies using lineage tracing and deep sequencing could have implications for the cancer stem-cell model and may help to determine the extent to which it accounts for therapy resistance and disease progression.

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