Spatially constrained tumour growth affects the patterns of clonal selection and neutral drift in cancer genomic data.
PLoS Comput Biol
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Quantification of the effect of spatial tumour sampling on the patterns of mutations detected in next-generation sequencing data is largely lacking. Here we use a spatial stochastic cellular automaton model of tumour growth that accounts for somatic mutations, selection, drift and spatial constraints, to simulate multi-region sequencing data derived from spatial sampling of a neoplasm. We show that the spatial structure of a solid cancer has a major impact on the detection of clonal selection and genetic drift from both bulk and single-cell sequencing data. Our results indicate that spatial constrains can introduce significant sampling biases when performing multi-region bulk sampling and that such bias becomes a major confounding factor for the measurement of the evolutionary dynamics of human tumours. We also propose a statistical inference framework that incorporates spatial effects within a growing tumour and so represents a further step forwards in the inference evolutionary dynamics from genomic data. Our analysis shows that measuring cancer evolution using next-generation sequencing while accounting for the numerous confounding factors remains challenging. However, mechanistic model-based approaches have the potential to capture the sources of noise and better interpret the data.