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Mol Biol Evol. 2016 Jan;33(1):4-12. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msv212. Epub 2015 Oct 13.

The Convergent Cancer Evolution toward a Single Cellular Destination.

Author information

1
Key Laboratory of Gene Engineering of Ministry of Education, College of Ecology and Evolution, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China.
2
Key Laboratory of Gene Engineering of Ministry of Education, College of Ecology and Evolution, School of Life Sciences, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China Collaborative Innovation Center of High Performance Computing, National University of Defense Technology, Changsha, China hexiongl@mail.sysu.edu.cn.

Abstract

The essence of Darwin's theory is that evolution is driven by purposeless mutations that are subsequently selected by natural environments, so there is often no predefined destination in organismal evolution. Using gene expressions of 107 cell types, we built a functional space of human cells to trace the evolutionary trajectory of 18 types of solid tumor cancers. We detected a dominant evolving trend toward the functional status of embryonic stem cells (ESC) for approximately 3,000 tumors growing in distinct tissue environments. This pattern remained the same after excluding known cancer/ESC signature genes (∼ 3,000 genes) or excluding all oncogenic gene sets (∼ 12,000 genes) annotated in MSigDB, suggesting a convergent evolution of the overall functional status in cancers. In support of this, the functional distance to ESC served as a common prognostic indicator for cancers of various types, with shorter distance corresponding to poor prognosis, which was true even when randomly selected gene sets were considered. Thus, regardless of the external environments, cancer evolution is a directional process toward a defined cellular destination, a finding reconciling development and evolution, the two seemingly incompatible philosophies both adopted by the cancer research community, and also raising new questions to evolutionary biology.

KEYWORDS:

cancer evolution; convergence; expression profile

PMID:
26464125
DOI:
10.1093/molbev/msv212
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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