Integrating Evolutionary Theory into Cancer Biology - Purpose & Goals

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SFI Working Group on Integrating Evolutionary Theory into Cancer Biology: Purpose and Goals

Within the last few decades, cancer biologists have reached consensus on a major insight into the dynamics of cancer: Cancer arises, and resists treatment, through a process of competition and selection among cells within the body that is closely analogous, if not formally identical, to Darwinian natural selection in a population of organisms. Although this insight is now agreed on, it’s implications for advancing cancer biology have yet to be fully explored and exploited. The potential exists for bringing to bear the existing body of evolutionary theory to better understand how cancer arises, and how it develops resistance to treatment. Realizing this potential will require the kind of interdisciplinary integration that is difficult to catalyze in most academic settings. This working group will bring together both researchers with deep understanding of the major problems in cancer biology and researchers with deep understanding of evolution under natural selection. The goal of the group is to explore how to bring to bear existing evolutionary and ecological theory on the central problems of cancer biology. By identifying the most promising new avenues for future theoretical and empirical work, we will attempt to lay out a ‘road map’ for applying evolutionary and ecological theory in cancer biology. In terms of concrete outcomes, we intend at a minimum that the participants will collaborate on a summary article on the working group for publication in a venue such as Science’s perspectives section. We also encourage participants to initiate collaborations on other projects including published papers, grant proposals, etc.