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Tumours evolve through time and space. Computational techniques have been developed to infer their evolutionary dynamics from DNA sequencing data. A growing number of studies have used these approaches to link molecular cancer evolution to clinical progression and response to therapy. There has not yet been a systematic evaluation of methods for reconstructing tumour subclonality, in part due to the underlying mathematical and biological complexity and to difficulties in creating gold-standards. To fill this gap, we systematically elucidated the key algorithmic problems in subclonal reconstruction and developed mathematically valid quantitative metrics for evaluating them. We then created approaches to simulate realistic tumour genomes, harbouring all known mutation types and processes both clonally and subclonally. We then simulated 580 tumour genomes for reconstruction, varying tumour read-depth and benchmarking somatic variant detection and subclonal reconstruction strategies. The inference of tumour phylogenies is rapidly becoming standard practice in cancer genome analysis; this study creates a baseline for its evaluation.

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