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Cell Death Dis. 2019 Oct 31;10(11):827. doi: 10.1038/s41419-019-2048-5.

Single cell analysis to dissect molecular heterogeneity and disease evolution in metastatic melanoma.

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Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Laboratory affiliated to Istituto Pasteur Italia-Fondazione Cenci Bolognetti, Rome, Italy.
IRCCS, Regina Elena National Cancer Institute, Rome, Italy.
Department of Molecular and Clinical Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.


Originally described as interpatient variability, tumour heterogeneity has now been demonstrated to occur intrapatiently, within the same lesion, or in different lesions of the same patient. Tumour heterogeneity involves both genetic and epigenetic changes. Intrapatient heterogeneity is responsible for generating subpopulations of cancer cells which undergo clonal evolution with time. Tumour heterogeneity develops also as a consequence of the selective pressure imposed by the immune system. It has been demonstrated that tumour heterogeneity and different spatiotemporal interactions between all the cellular compontents within the tumour microenvironment lead to cancer adaptation and to therapeutic pressure. In this context, the recent advent of single cell analysis approaches which are able to better study tumour heterogeneity from the genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic standpoint represent a major technological breakthrough. In this review, using metastatic melanoma as a prototypical example, we will focus on applying single cell analyses to the study of clonal trajectories which guide the evolution of drug resistance to targeted therapy.

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