Intratumor Heterogeneity in Breast Cancer

  • Francisco Beca
  • Kornelia Polyak
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 882)


Intratumor heterogeneity is the main obstacle to effective cancer treatment and personalized medicine. Both genetic and epigenetic sources of intratumor heterogeneity are well recognized and several technologies have been developed for their characterization. With the technological advances in recent years, investigators are now elucidating intratumor heterogeneity at the single cell level and in situ. However, translating the accumulated knowledge about intratumor heterogeneity to clinical practice has been slow. We are certain that better understanding of the composition and evolution of tumors during disease progression and treatment will improve cancer diagnosis and the design of therapies. Here we review some of the most important considerations related to intratumor heterogeneity. We discuss both genetic and epigenetic sources of intratumor heterogeneity and review experimental approaches that are commonly used to quantify it. We also discuss the impact of intratumor heterogeneity on cancer diagnosis and treatment and share our perspectives on the future of this field.


Heterogeneity Breast cancer Evolution Selection Clonality Phenotype Therapy Resistance Progression 


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Copyright information

© Breast Cancer Research Foundation 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Medical OncologyDana-Farber Cancer InstituteBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of MedicineHarvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA
  3. 3.IPATIMUP—Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of PortoPortoPortugal
  4. 4.Department of MedicineBrigham and Women’s HospitalBostonUSA

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