Abstract Extensive karyotypic analysis was performed on early and late passages of two continuous human cell lines, SW480 and SW620, that were derived from the same colon cancer patient. We cultivated these two cell lines in vitro for a period of 24 months and periodically examined their chromosome constitution. SW480 cells, from passage 138, were injected subcutaneously into 20 nude mice. The tumors that grew in nude mice were then cultivated in vitro for several passages to compare histopathologic findings and tumor growth patterns with clonal chromosomal profiles. Despite some karyotypic diversity, the two cell lines exhibited common marker chromosomes and followed similar patterns of evolution. During subsequent passages, acquisition of new chromosomal abnormalities gave rise to sidelines with a near-diploid genome that frequently underwent endoreduplication. Genomic instability seemed to play an important role in the emergence, growth, and subsequent elimination of the heterogenous sidelines by selection, clonal expansion, and cell death by senescence. Despite continuous growth, both the cell lines occasionally showed telomeric associations and random dicentric and multicentric formations. These lesions were considered evidence of cell senescence and were related to the disappearance of particular sidelines through evolution. Successful evolutionary steps were characterized by elimination of pre-existing marker chromosomes that were subsequently replaced in the karyotype by their cytologically intact homologous chromosomes possibly after selective endoreduplication. Frequent loss of heterozygosity for the chromosomes taking part in this process is postulated. We suggest that one of the mechanisms by which cancer cells bypass senescence may be related to their potential for continuous clonal diversification.