Cancer's deadly mutational tug of war

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Science  31 Oct 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6209, pp. 597
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6209.597-g

As cancers grow, they mutate, which allows their continued growth and metastasis. Mutations are either driver mutations—required for tumors to progress—or passenger mutations—additional random mutations that result from such rapid adaptation. How do passenger mutations affect tumors? McFarland et al. found that passenger mutations are 100 times more common than driver mutations and have smaller effects on tumors, but the effects are often deleterious. Thus driver and passenger mutations are in a “tug of war” that determines whether a tumor will progress. A better understanding of how passenger mutations accumulate could explain the success of current treatments or provide additional avenues to explore for therapeutic benefit.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1404341111 (2014).

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