The Downside of Diversity

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Science  29 Mar 2013:
Vol. 339, Issue 6127, pp. 1543-1545
DOI: 10.1126/science.339.6127.1543

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Genomics studies are stirring new interest in an old idea—that tumors are a mosaic of different cells—by confirming with modern techniques that tumors are not always dominated by genetically identical cells. Instead, tumors often contain many subsets of cells that are related but genetically distinct. The extent of this intratumor heterogeneity has shaken cancer biologists and clinicians, who're rethinking major projects to tally up cancer mutations. And physicians worry that the new studies suggest that the growing practice of analyzing the genetic and molecular characteristics of a single tumor biopsy to guide patient treatment may sometimes mislead.