Population Genetics of Cancer Evolution

Cancer develops when evolutionary forces act on mutated cells. When mutations and natural selection repeat over time, cancerous cell populations grow and spread. The resulting cancer cell population displays extensive genetic and functional heterogeneity within and across tumors. This diversity presents challenges to our understanding of tumor biology and ability to treat cancer, especially because the evolutionary dynamics and variables underlying the heterogeneity are often poorly understood. In this project, cancer biology researchers from IARC-WHO in Lyon, France, will collaborate with population geneticists from Stanford to decipher the patterns of genetic variation and evolutionary dynamics of cancer progression. We plan to develop statistical methods and a population-genetic model to infer evolutionary events in cancer progression. Next, we will use population-genetic summary statistics to assess the level of genetic diversity among subpopulations of cancerous cells. This work will allow us to track tumor development. The project will involve international postdoctoral and graduate training; trainees will gain experience in areas outside their primary disciplines, in the laboratories of collaborators. This interdisciplinary collaboration will assist in advancing cancer precision medicine and improving the efficacy of existing cancer therapies while enhancing the training of interdisciplinary researchers at Stanford and IARC-WHO.


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