CONTEXT: Studies characterising genomic changes in prostate cancer (PCa) during natural progression have greatly increased our understanding of the disease. A better understanding of the evolutionary history of PCa would allow advances in diagnostics, prognostication, and novel therapies that together will improve patient outcomes.
OBJECTIVE: To review the molecular heterogeneity of PCa and assess recent efforts to profile intratumoural heterogeneity and clonal evolution.
EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: We screened a total of 1313 abstracts from PubMed published between 2009 and 2020, of which we reviewed 84 full-text articles. We excluded 49, resulting in 35 studies for qualitative analysis.
EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: In studies of primary disease (16 studies, 4793 specimens), there is a lack of consensus regarding the monoclonal or polyclonal origin of primary PCa. There is no consistent mutation giving rise to primary PCa. Detailed clonal analysis of primary PCa has been limited by current techniques. By contrast, clonal relationships between PCa metastases and a potentiating clone have been consistently identified (19 studies, 732 specimens). Metastatic specimens demonstrate consistent truncal genomic aberrations that suggest monoclonal metastatic progenitors.
CONCLUSIONS: The relationship between the clonal dynamics of PCa and clinical outcomes needs further investigation. It is likely that this will provide a biological rationale for whether radical treatment of the primary tumour benefits patients with oligometastatic PCa. Future studies on the mutational burden in primary disease at single-cell resolution should permit the identification of clonal patterns underpinning the origin of lethal PCa.
PATIENT SUMMARY: Prostate cancers arise in different parts of the prostate because of DNA mutations that occur by chance at different times. These cancer cells and their origin can be tracked by DNA mapping. In this review we summarise the state of the art and outline what further science is needed to provide the missing answers.