Short and long distance cell dispersal can have a marked effect on tumor structure, high cellular motility could lead to faster cell mixing and lower observable intratumor heterogeneity. Here we evaluated a model for cell mixing that investigates how short-range dispersal and cell turnover will account for mutational proportions. We show that cancer cells can penetrate neighboring and distinct areas in a matter of days. In next generation sequencing runs, higher proportions of a given cell line generated frequencies with higher precision, while mixtures with lower amounts of each cell line had lower precision manifesting in higher standard deviations. When multiple cell lines were co-cultured, cellular movement altered observed mutation frequency by up to 18.5%. We propose that some of the shared mutations detected at low allele frequencies represent highly motile clones that appear in multiple regions of a tumor owing to dispersion throughout the tumor. In brief, cell movement will lead to a significant technical (sampling) bias when using next generation sequencing to determine clonal composition. A possible solution to this drawback would be to radically decrease detection thresholds and increase coverage in NGS analyses.
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