Chromosomal instability (CIN), an increased rate of chromosome segregation errors during mitosis, is a hallmark of cancer cells. CIN leads to karyotype differences between cells and thus large-scale heterogeneity among individual cancer cells; therefore, it plays an important role in cancer evolution. Studying CIN and its consequences is technically challenging, but various technologies have been developed to track karyotype dynamics during tumorigenesis, trace clonal lineages and link genomic changes to cancer phenotypes at single-cell resolution. These methods provide valuable insight not only into the role of CIN in cancer progression, but also into cancer cell fitness. In this Cell Science at a Glance article and the accompanying poster, we discuss the relationship between CIN, cancer cell fitness and evolution, and highlight techniques that can be used to study the relationship between these factors. To that end, we explore methods of assessing cancer cell fitness, particularly for chromosomally unstable cancer.

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