DOI: 10.1158/1538-7445.canevol23-ia001 ISSN: 1538-7445

Abstract IA001: Molecular archeology of cancer

Peter Van Loo
  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


Tumor development is driven by changes to the genome and epigenome leading to fitness advantages underlying successive clonal expansions. As somatic genetic and epigenetic changes occur across most or all cell cycles, the cancer (epi)genome carries an archeological record of its past. Over the past years, we have developed several approaches to mine that archeological record from the cancer genome, which we collectively call 'molecular archeology of cancer'. Using these approaches, we are able to infer the subclonal architecture of tumors, and gain key insights into the order and timing of the genomic changes that occurred over their evolutionary history. We have applied these approaches in a large-scale pan-cancer setting, showing that intra-tumor heterogeneity is pervasive across cancers and that the timelines of tumor evolution span multiple years to decades. Key driver events in tumor evolution typically occur early, and copy number gains often accumulate as punctuated bursts, commonly after genome doubling. Late genome doubling is frequent in cancer evolution and is typically followed by an increase in the rate of copy number gains. Genome duplications affect the selection landscape of copy number losses, while only minimally impacting copy number gains. We have recently also started to develop methods that leverage the cancer epigenome to reconstruct the subclonal architecture of cancer, which will open up new avenues to study tumor evolution.

Citation Format: Peter Van Loo. Molecular archeology of cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference in Cancer Research: Translating Cancer Evolution and Data Science: The Next Frontier; 2023 Dec 3-6; Boston, Massachusetts. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2024;84(3 Suppl_2):Abstract nr IA001.

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