Encyclopedia of Cancer

Living Edition
| Editors: Manfred Schwab

Chromosomal Instability

  • Susanne M. Gollin
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-27841-9_1140-3




Chromosomal instability is the gain and/or loss of whole chromosomes or chromosomal segments at a higher rate in a population of cells, such as cancer cells, compared to their normal counterparts (normal cells). In some cancers, each cell within the tumor has a different chromosomal constitution (karyotype) due to chromosomal instability, which may be defined in practical terms as numerical and/or structural chromosomal alterations that vary from cell to cell. Although the terms chromosomal instability and genomic instability have been used interchangeably, this is technically incorrect, as they refer to different forms of genetic instability.


Chromosomal instability is a characteristic of cancer cells, especially solid tumors (rather than most hematologic (blood cell) malignancies). Several cellular mechanisms lead to numerical and structural chromosomal instability in cancer cells, including defects in (i) chromosomal distribution to the...


Chromosomal Instability Cell Cycle Checkpoint Penile Cancer Telomere Dysfunction Familial Pancreatic Cancer 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Boveri T (1929) The origin of malignant tumors (trans: Boveri M). The Williams and Wilkins, Baltimore, p 119Google Scholar
  2. Hanahan D, Weinberg RA (2011) Hallmarks of cancer: the next generation. Cell 144:646–674CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Murnane JP (2010) Telomere loss as a mechanism for chromosome instability in cancer cells. Cancer Res 70:4255–4259PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Thompson SL, Bakhoum SF, Compton DA (2010) Mechanisms of chromosomal instability. Curr Biol 20:R285–R295PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Human GeneticsUniversity of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer InstitutePittsburghUSA