Massively parallel approaches to nucleic acid sequencing have matured from proof-of-concept to commercial products during the past 5 years. These technologies are now widely accessible, increasingly affordable, and have already exerted a transformative influence on the study of human cancer. Here, we review new features of cancer genomes that are being revealed by large-scale applications of these technologies. We focus on those insights most likely to affect future clinical practice. Foremost among these lessons, we summarize the formidable genetic heterogeneity within given cancer types that is appreciable with higher resolution profiling and larger sample sets. We discuss the inherent challenges of defining driving genomic events in a given cancer genome amidst thousands of other somatic events. Finally, we explore the organizational, regulatory and societal challenges impeding precision cancer medicine based on genomic profiling from assuming its place as standard-of-care.
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