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Transcriptional signals of transformation in human cancer.

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Kildisiute, Gerda 
Kalyva, Maria 
Elmentaite, Rasa 
van Dongen, Stijn 
Thevanesan, Christine 


BACKGROUND: As normal cells transform into cancers, their cell state changes, which may drive cancer cells into a stem-like or more primordial, foetal, or embryonic cell state. The transcriptomic profile of this final state may encode information about cancer's origin and how cancers relate to their normal cell counterparts. METHODS: Here, we used single-cell atlases to study cancer transformation in transcriptional terms. We utilised bulk transcriptomes across a wide spectrum of adult and childhood cancers, using a previously established method to interrogate their relationship to normal cell states. We extend and validate these findings using single-cell cancer transcriptomes and organ-specific atlases of colorectal and liver cancer. RESULTS: Our bulk transcriptomic data reveals that adult cancers rarely return to an embryonic state, but that a foetal state is a near-universal feature of childhood cancers. This finding was confirmed with single-cell cancer transcriptomes. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings provide a nuanced picture of transformation in human cancer, indicating cancer-specific rather than universal patterns of transformation pervade adult epithelial cancers.


Acknowledgements: Not applicable.


Adult, Humans, Liver Neoplasms, Embryonic Development, Fetus, Gene Expression Profiling, Transcriptome

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Genome Med

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
Wellcome Trust (220540/Z/20/A, 223135/Z/21/Z)