Identifying driver mutations in sequenced cancer genomes: Computational approaches to enable precision medicine

Benjamin J. Raphael, Jason R. Dobson, Layla Oesper, Fabio Vandin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

144 Scopus citations


High-throughput DNA sequencing is revolutionizing the study of cancer and enabling the measurement of the somatic mutations that drive cancer development. However, the resulting sequencing datasets are large and complex, obscuring the clinically important mutations in a background of errors, noise, and random mutations. Here, we review computational approaches to identify somatic mutations in cancer genome sequences and to distinguish the driver mutations that are responsible for cancer from random, passenger mutations. First, we describe approaches to detect somatic mutations from high-throughput DNA sequencing data, particularly for tumor samples that comprise heterogeneous populations of cells. Next, we review computational approaches that aim to predict driver mutations according to their frequency of occurrence in a cohort of samples, or according to their predicted functional impact on protein sequence or structure. Finally, we review techniques to identify recurrent combinations of somatic mutations, including approaches that examine mutations in known pathways or protein-interaction networks, as well as de novo approaches that identify combinations of mutations according to statistical patterns of mutual exclusivity. These techniques, coupled with advances in high-throughput DNA sequencing, are enabling precision medicine approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5
JournalGenome Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 30 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology


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