Role of chromosomal instability in cancer progression

    1. Sarah E McClelland
    1. Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to S E McClelland; Email: S.McClelland{at}


    Cancer cells often display chromosomal instability (CIN), a defect that involves loss or rearrangement of the cell’s genetic material – chromosomes – during cell division. This process results in the generation of aneuploidy, a deviation from the haploid number of chromosomes, and structural alterations of chromosomes in over 90% of solid tumours and many haematological cancers. This trait is unique to cancer cells as normal cells in the body generally strictly maintain the correct number and structure of chromosomes. This key difference between cancer and normal cells has led to two important hypotheses: (i) cancer cells have had to overcome inherent barriers to changes in chromosomes that are not tolerated in non-cancer cells and (ii) CIN represents a cancer-specific target to allow the specific elimination of cancer cells from the body. To exploit these hypotheses and design novel approaches to treat cancer, a full understanding of the mechanisms driving CIN and how CIN contributes to cancer progression is required. Here, we will discuss the possible mechanisms driving chromosomal instability, how CIN may contribute to the progression at multiple stages of tumour evolution and possible future therapeutic directions based on targeting cancer chromosomal instability.

    • Received 5 July 2017
    • Accepted 10 July 2017
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 10 July 2017
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