Limitations of the driver/passenger model in cancer prevention.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.) (2016)


Mutations detected in cancers are often divided into "drivers" and "passengers." We suggest that this classification is potentially misleading for purposes of early detection and prevention. Specifically, some mutations are frequent in tumors and thus appear to be drivers, but are poor predictors of cancer; other mutations are individually rare and thus appear to be passengers, but may collectively explain a large proportion of risk. The assumptions bundled into the terms "driver" and "passenger" can lead to misunderstandings of neoplastic progression, with unintended consequences including overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and failure to identify the true sources of risk. We argue that samples from healthy, benign, or neoplastic tissues are critical for evaluating the risk of future cancer posed by mutations in a given gene.