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.

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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
Yale School of Public Health
March 4 or 11, 2021 Ann BarkertbdEllison Institute for Transformative Medicine, USC
April 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
June 3, 2021Charles SwantontbdFrancis Crick Institute

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.

Organizing Committee

Frank H. Laukien
James A. Shapiro
Perry Marshall
Henry H. Heng
Denis Noble

Symposium Planning & Execution Team

Tamra V. Thorne
Diane Ferrucci

Advisory Committee

Bonnie Anderson
M. William Audeh
Anna D. Barker
Steven A. Carr
George Church
Leroy Hood
Nevan Krogan
Matthius Mann
Elizabeth O'Day
Kenneth J. Pienta
Azra Raza
Dimitar Sasselov
Charles Swanton
Jeffrey Townsend