Genomic instability, driver genes and cell selection: PROJECTIONS from cancer to stem cells

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Cancer cells and stem cells share many traits, including a tendency towards genomic instability. Human cancers exhibit tumor-specific genomic aberrations, which often affect their malignancy and drug response. During their culture propagation, human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) also acquire characteristic genomic aberrations, which may have significant impact on their molecular and cellular phenotypes. These aberrations vary in size from single nucleotide alterations to copy number alterations to whole chromosome gains. A prominent challenge in both cancer and stem cell research is to identify "driver aberrations" that confer a selection advantage, and "driver genes" that underlie the recurrence of these aberrations. Following principles that are already well-established in cancer research, candidate driver genes have also been suggested in hPSCs. Experimental validation of the functional role of such candidates can uncover whether these are bona fide driver genes. The identification of driver genes may bring us closer to a mechanistic understanding of the genomic instability of stem cells. Guided by terminologies and methodologies commonly applied in cancer research, such understanding may have important ramifications for both stem cell and cancer biology. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Stress as a fundamental theme in cell plasticity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-435
Number of pages9
JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Gene Regulatory Mechanisms
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Aneuploidy
  • Driver mutation
  • Genomic instability
  • Human cancer cell
  • Human embryonic stem cell
  • Human induced pluripotent stem cell
  • Human pluripotent stem cell


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