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Brief Funct Genomics. 2018 Jul 1;17(4):273-282. doi: 10.1093/bfgp/elx036.

Application of single-cell sequencing in human cancer.

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Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Nobels Vag 12A, Stockholm, Sweden.


Precision medicine is emerging as a cornerstone of future cancer care with the objective of providing targeted therapies based on the molecular phenotype of each individual patient. Traditional bulk-level molecular phenotyping of tumours leads to significant information loss, as the molecular profile represents an average phenotype over large numbers of cells, while cancer is a disease with inherent intra-tumour heterogeneity at the cellular level caused by several factors, including clonal evolution, tissue hierarchies, rare cells and dynamic cell states. Single-cell sequencing provides means to characterize heterogeneity in a large population of cells and opens up opportunity to determine key molecular properties that influence clinical outcomes, including prognosis and probability of treatment response. Single-cell sequencing methods are now reliable enough to be used in many research laboratories, and we are starting to see applications of these technologies for characterization of human primary cancer cells. In this review, we provide an overview of studies that have applied single-cell sequencing to characterize human cancers at the single-cell level, and we discuss some of the current challenges in the field.

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