Science

Inferring tumour evolution 2 – Comparison to classical phylogenetics

Series on Tumor Evolution

Quick recap: Last time we talked about tumor evolution and I presented a toy example to introduce key concepts. I also introduced the intra-tumor phylogeny problem: Given a sample of the genomes of clones in a tumour, reconstruct its `life history’. This problem consists of two sub-problems: (1)¬†identification of clones, and (2) inferring evolutionary relationships between clones.

This problem falls into the general area of reconstructing phylogenetic trees — so how does inferring clonal trees compare to classical phylogenetic methods?

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Science

Inferring tumour evolution 1 – The intra-tumour phylogeny problem

Series on Tumor Evolution

“Cancer evolves dynamically as clonal expansions supersede one another driven by shifting selective pressures, mutational processes, and disrupted cancer genes. These processes mark the genome, such that a cancer’s life history is encrypted in the somatic mutations present,”

write Nik-Zainal et al in the abstract of their 2012 Cell paper `The life history of 21 breast cancers’. The key figure of their paper shows a phylogenetic tree of tumor development in a patient. The paper contains lots of computational work on analyzing and interpreting mutations based on deep-sequencing data, but –a big surprised but— the very last step of putting together the tree was done manually. Half the paper is describing the reasoning that Peter Campbell and his group used to condense all the evidence they had gathered from genomic data into the tree – but there is no algorithm.

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