Participate in the Cancer & Evolution Monthly Webcasts

We are very pleased to announce that our Cancer& group has decided to continue  the successful, landmark Cancer & Evolution Symposium, held on October 14-16, 2020, as a monthly virtual Cancer & Evolution Seminar Series (CESS).

The format for each Cancer & Evolution seminar will be a 90-minute (Zoom) program, guided by a moderator, with two speakers presenting for 25 minutes with 5 minutes of Q&A for each, followed by a 30-minute scientific group discussion.

CESS kicked off on Thursday, December 3rd, 2020, and our seminars will typically be held from 11 am to 12:30 pm Eastern Time (ET) on the first Thursday of every month.

As part of our CESS out-reach program, many of our seminars will be co-hosted, e.g. by a department, institute or center, and scientists and cancer researchers at the co-hosting institution will be invited to the respective seminar. Registration is not required, and the seminars are free of charge.

We hope you will be able to participate actively and frequently in the fascinating CESS scientific and cancer research presentations and discussions. We are always looking for feedback, suggestions, recommendations for speakers, referrals, and we anticipate that, just like the symposium, our new Cancer & Evolution seminar series will be very interactive.

With best wishes,

The Cancer& group


Every month, two leading researchers present their latest findings about cancer as an evolutionary phenomenon. Sign up to receive notifications and links to each session.

Mailing List Sign Up

Speaker Schedule (full details follow below)

Dec 3, 2020Frank LaukienJonathan Losos, Washington University
Casimir Bamberger, Scripps Res. Institute
Harvard Origins of Life Initiative & Wyss Institute at Harvard
Jan 7, 2021Azra RazaCarlos Sonnenschein, Tufts University
Joshua Ofman, Grail, Inc.
Columbia MDS Center
Feb 4, 2021Jeff TownsendJason Somarelli, Duke University
Sudhir Kumar, Temple University
Yale School of Public Health
Mar 11, 2021 Anna Barker
David Argus
Robert A. Gatenby, Center of Excellence for Evolution Based Therapy
Kenneth Pienta, James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Susan M, Rosenberg, Baylor College of Medicine/Dan L. Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Charles Swanton, Francis Crick Institute
Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine, USC
Apr 1, 2021Kenneth PientaRobert Austin, Princeton University
Joel Brown, Moffit Cancer Center
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
May 6, 2021Denis NobleSui Huang, Institute for Systems Biology
Jean-Jacques Kupiec, ENS (Paris), France
Physiology, Anatomy & Genetics Dpmt, U. of Oxford
Jun 10, 2021Charles SwantontbdFrancis Crick Institute
Jul 1, 2021Perry MarshallAzra Raza
Kim Bussey
Sep 2, 2021Jason SomarelliTBD
Oct 18-21, 20212nd Annual Symposium
Dec 2, 2021George PosteTBD

March 11, 2021


David Agus, MD

Professor of Medicine and Engineering at USC
CEO of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC

Anna Barker, Ph.D

Chief Strategy Officer of the Lawrence J. Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine of USC
Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Complex Adaptive Systems, Arizona State University


Robert A. Gatenby, MD

Department Chair in Radiology
Co-Director Center of Excellence for Evolution Based Therapy

Susan Rosenberg, Ph.D

Ben F Love Chair in Cancer Research
Professor, Departments of Molecular & Human Genetics, Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Molecular Virology & Microbiology
Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
Founder and Leader, Mechanisms in Evolution Program, Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer CenterCo-Director Center of Excellence for Evolution Based Therapy

Charles Swanton, FRCP, Ph.D, FMedSci, FAACR, FRS

Senior Group Leader of the Cancer Evolution and Genome Instability Laboratory at the Francis Crick Institute

Kenneth Pienta, MD

The Donald S. Coffey Professor of Urology
The James Buchanan Brady Urological Institute
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Title: How applying specific principles of evolution/evolutionary theory (and ecology) across biological and temporal scales of cancer revolutionize treatment strategies, reduce resistance, and improve patient outcome.

Abstract: Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection dates to 1859 and its role in biological systems was best captured by Theodosius Dobzhansky in 1973 when he stated that, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. This observation has proven to be especially true for cancer. In fact, viewing and managing cancer through the lens of evolution is increasingly shaping and sharpening our understanding of cancer at all stages, especially related to the emergence of metastatic disease and resistance to treatment. Despite the long-appreciated fact that understanding the evolution and ecology of cancer is critical to achieving future progress, there are still only a handful of examples where evolutionary concepts and derivative models are being applied in clinical settings. However, recent research and new insights are beginning to offer unprecedented opportunities for ideas to transform these theoretical concepts into new models, technologies, and approaches that promise to affect every area of cancer medicine. For example, understanding the evolution and ecology of cancer(s) will inform solutions to difficult questions related to risk stratification, prognosis, prediction of response to therapy, and combating the almost inevitable resistance that occurs in cancer patients undergoing treatment. In addition to the emergence of a new field of evolutionary cancer medicine, the integration of these evolutionary and ecological principles will also provide opportunities to achieve the goals of precision oncology. The overall intent for this Insights Forum is to explore how we might apply evolution and ecological theories and principles in oncology, with an emphasis on reducing resistance to cancer treatment, and ultimately improving patient outcomes. The speakers can address the question as they see fit (e.g., creative ideas, new models, technologies, etc.). We go where the conversation takes us.

February 4, 2021


Jeffrey Townsend, Ph.D

Elihu Professor of Biostatistics and Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Yale School of Public Health, Yale University
Co-Organizer of SMBE Satellite Meeting on the ‘Molecular Biology and Evolution of Cancer’ at the Yale School of Public Health, April 12–13, 2019


Jason Somarelli, Ph.D

Assistant Professor Department of Medicine
Director of Research, Duke Comparative Oncology Group
Duke Cancer Institute

Title: Cancer, convergence, and competition: Tracking evolutionary dynamics reveals new strategies to overcome cancer therapy resistance.

Abstract: The major cause of death for nearly all patients with solid tumors is due to metastatic spread of therapy-resistant disease. The problem of metastasis and therapy resistance in cancer is grounded in evolutionary and ecological principles. The evolution from a drug-responsive to a drug-resistant state is driven by selection of individuals within a genetically- and phenotypically- diverse population that possess a fitness advantage over other cells. Our team is leveraging CRISPR/Cas9-mediated lineage tracing and systems biology strategies to track fitness bottlenecks during the evolution of therapy resistance to identify new therapeutic vulnerabilities for drug-resistant cancers. We have applied these systems to studies of hormone therapy resistance in prostate cancer and doxorubicin resistance in osteosarcoma. This work pinpoints population fitness dynamics consistent with convergent evolution and community succession that help to pinpoint new therapeutic vulnerabilities to prevent or delay the emergence of aggressive, therapy-resistant disease.

Sudhir Kumar, Ph.D

Director, Institute for Genomics and Evolutionary Medicine
Carnell Professor, Biology, Temple University, Philadelphia

Title: Molecular Phylogenetics of Tumor Evolution

Abstract: Dr. Kumar will discuss how his research group has used the intrinsic evolutionary structure in tumor and single-cell sequence variation to develop new computational methods. He will also discuss how the concepts and tools of phylogenetics and phylogeography are key technologies for cancer evolutionary studies.

January 7, 2021


Azra Raza, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, Director - MDS Center, Columbia University Medical Center; Author, The First Cell: And the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the Last


Carlos Sonnenschein, MD

Professor, Tufts University School of Medicine
Integrative Physiology & Pathobiology

Title: Deciding on Cancer Theories

Abstract: My presentation will briefly discuss the premises that have been adopted to propose the somatic mutation theory (SMT) and its multiple variants and the tissue organization field theory (TOFT) of carcinogenesis. In addition, I will discuss the merits of both theories and the answers they have provided to important questions in cancer research, in clinical cancer and to biology at large.

Joshua J. Ofman, MD, MSHS

Chief Medical Officer and External Affairs

Title: Novel Approaches to Multi-Cancer Early Detection

Abstract: Dr. Ofman will discuss the landscape of current cancer screening, and the potential for MCED technology to impact public health.

December 3, 2020


Frank H. Laukien, Ph.D.

Co-Organizer of Cancer & Evolution Symposium; Author, Natural Evolution 4.0: Feedback-Driven and Actively Accelerated Biological Evolution; Chairman, President & CEO, Bruker Corporation


Jonathan Losos, Ph.D.

Director, Living Earth Collaborative; William H. Danforth Distinguished University Professor; Department of Biology, Washington University in St. Louis; Author, Improbable Destinies: Fate, Chance, and the Future of Evolution (2017)

Title: Fate and Chance in Evolution: A Lizard's Tale

Abstract: Are the plants and animals that exist today, and we humans ourselves, predictable inevitabilities or historical flukes, the happy, but improbable, result of the particular chain of events that occurred over Earth’s history? And what might these debates suggest about life on other planets? Stephen Jay Gould famously posed this question with his “replay the tape” metaphor 30 years ago. Inspired by Gould, biologists have developed two research programs to test the question of evolutionary repeatability. Some have pointed to the pervasiveness of convergent evolution as evidence that evolution commonly finds the same adaptive solutions, while others have replayed the tape by conducting replicated experiments in the laboratory and, increasingly, in the field to directly test Gould’ postulate. As is often the case, the results are mixed: evolution is sometimes highly repeatable, in other cases critically contingent on circumstances. The challenge now is to understand not whether evolution is repeatable, but why it is sometimes and not others.

Casimir Bamberger, Ph.D.

Research Scientist, The Scripps Research Institute, Group of Professor John Yates; Previously a cell biology post-doc at ETH Zurich, and later at Harvard Medical School; PhD in biology from the University of Hamburg

Title: A Survey of the Cancer Conformational Landscape and its Evolution with 3D Proteomics


The current paradigm in cancer research states that somatic mutations drive malignant transformation by altering the abundance, structure or interactions of proteins.  However, the full extent of altered protein conformations and interactions in the cancer proteome is only partially known.  To address this gap in knowledge we developed Covalent Protein Painting (CPP), which is a novel mass spectrometric method that allows us to sample aberrant protein conformations in the 3D proteome of cancer cells with exquisite sensitivity.  Using CPP, we surveyed the 3D proteome of 60 different cancer cell lines (NCI60) that harbor a total of 461 somatically mutated genes.

Here, I will explore the consequences of a single point mutation upon the 3D proteome and describe commonalities in aberrant protein conformations across all 60 NCI cancer cell lines.  Based on the findings I conclude that the sequence of somatic mutation events is more important than the contribution of each somatic mutation alone to the conformational landscape of the cancer proteome, and thus for the evolution and maintenance of malignancy.  With this insight we performed an in silico screen and find 49 conformational changes in non-mutated proteins that predict the efficacy of 300 small molecules to kill tumor cells.  In conclusion, these 49 protein sites might be conformational biomarkers to determine anti-cancer drug efficacy or might be direct targets for anticancer drug development.