Evolutionary Biology and Ecology of Cancer

July 11th - 15th 2016

Wellcome Genome Campus, Hinxton, UK


Knowledge of evolution and ecology is important to understand and
clinically control cancer. Unfortunately, there are few cancer biologists
trained in evolution and ecology, and few evolutionary biologists and
ecologists work in cancer research. The aim of this new course is to
cross-train evolutionary biologists and ecologists in cancer, and to
train cancer biologists in the relevant evolutionary biology and ecology
to facilitate cross fertilization of ideas and forge active
collaborations. For example, in the areas of evolutionary modelling and
‘steering’ in vitro, in determinants of convergent evolution,
and in predictive parameters for evolutionary progression.

Evolution and ecology form the basis of the theory of cancer. Neoplasms
evolve at the cellular level. Somatic genetic and epigenetic changes
generate diversity among cells, and natural selection leads to the
evolution of mutant clones that can proliferate and disseminate
throughout the body. Selective pressures within a neoplasm are determined
by the ecology of the cells; for example, the tumour microenvironment,
cell-cell interactions, the flux of resources within the environment and
interactions with the extracellular matrix and the microbiome. Cancer
therapeutic interventions often select for resistant clones and therefore
fail because of the same evolutionally pressures and ecological dynamics
that drive tumour progression.

The focus of this first year will be the ecology of tumour
microenvironments, which have a dramatic effect on the behaviour of
cancer cells. This course is aimed at researchers currently working in
cancer and/or evolution and ecology. It is particularly suited to
evolutionary biologists and ecologists interested in moving into cancer
research, and to cancer biologists and oncologists who lack formal
training in evolutionary biology. Applications are invited from early
career scientists, including post-graduate students, postdoctoral fellows
and new principle investigators.

Learning outcomes
After attending this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand the principles from ecology relevant to studying tumour microenvironments.
  • Understand the principles of evolutionary biology as applied to somatic cell evolution in cancer (e.g. generation of diversity, driver mutations, epistasis, selective pressures, cellular co-operation and competition, units of selection).
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the tools and metrics used to measure ecosystems and evolution that can be applied to cancer.
  • Understand the evolutionary dynamics that are important in cell-level evolution within neoplasms.
  • Apply evolutionary and ecological approaches to the problem of therapeutic resistance.
  • Demonstrate familiarity with the experimental (therapeutic) tactics for bypassing the evolutionary resilience of cancer including ecosystem directed modulation.
  • Understand the limits of our current knowledge of the evolution and ecology of cancer, and the most important open questions for future research.


The course will start at approximately 13:00 on Monday, 11 July and close
at approximately 13:00 on Friday, 15 July 2016.

This course is lecture and discussion based. The programme will include
working group meetings formed around common interests. Each working group
will be tasked with identifying an important question in the evolution
and ecology of cancer, and developing a draft grant proposal to address
the question.

Course topics

  • The dynamics of somatic evolution
  • Cancer phylogenetics
  • Ecological theory
  • Cooperation and cheating between neoplastic cells
  • Ecology of cell-type interactions
  • Ecological interactions with the microbiome
  • Ecology of inflammation in tumours
  • Ecological measurements
  • Acquired therapeutic resistance and adaptive therapy

This is a residential course. All participants are requested to stay
onsite for the full duration to benefit fully from discussions and
interactions with the faculty and other students.

Instructors and speakers

Course instructors
Athena Aktipis Arizona State University, USA &
Institute of Cancer Research, UK
Mel Greaves Institute of Cancer Research, UK
Carlo Maley Arizona State University, USA &
Institute of Cancer Research, UK

Course tutors
Alexander Anderson Moffitt Cancer Center, USA

Karen Anderson
Arizona State University, USA
Amy Boddy Arizona State University, USA
Joel Brown
University of Illinois Chicago and Moffitt Cancer
Center, USA
Peter Campbell Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK
Bob Gatenby Moffitt Cancer Center, USA
Marco Gerlinger Institute of Cancer Research, UK
Trevor Graham Barts Cancer Institute, UK
Michalina Janiszewska Dana Farber Cancer Institute,
David Posada University of Vigo, Spain
Darryl Shibata University of Southern California, USA

Andrea Sottoriva Institute of Cancer Research, UK

Event organiser
Jemma Beard Wellcome Genome Campus, UK

How to apply


Registration with Single Accommodation  £650.00

The fees include accommodation, meals and lectures for the duration of
the course. The fee will be requested once acceptance is confirmed.

This is a residential course. All participants will stay at The Wellcome
Genome Campus Conference Centre, Hinxton, Cambridge, for the nights of
11-14 July 2016.

If you wish to book onsite accommodation either side of the summer
school/course dates, please contact the Conference

Application deadline: Closed

Places on this course are limited to 30 students and will be awarded on
merit. The selection process will take place in May 2015. Applications
are invited from early career scientists, including post-graduate
students, postdoctoral fellows and new principle investigators.

The following will need to be provided:

  • CV and justification for attendance
  • An outline of current research
  • Supervisor’s details: your supervisor will then receive an e-mail requesting a supporting statement to complete your application

Please note: Applications cannot be considered without a
supervisor’s supporting statement.

Travel visas
Please contact the event organiser if you require a letter to support a
travel visa application. Note that letters will be provided to confirmed

Non-European Economic Area or Swiss nationals may be required to have a
visa to enter the UK.
Early application is strongly advised, as this process can take 6-8 weeks
or longer.

Please visit the following websites for further information:
UK Border Agency website: www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/visas-immigration/

Information for general visitors and business visitors:


A limited number of registration bursaries are available for PhD students
to attend this school (up to 50% of the registration fee) from The Kay
Kendall Leukaemia Fund and CR-UK.

The following documents will need to be provided:

  • Abstract
  • CV
  • Covering letter
  • Letter from supervisor

To apply, please contact the conference organiser.

Bursary deadline: Closed


We thank the following organisations for their support:

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