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By John W. Pepper, Barbara K. Dunn, Richard M. Fagerstrom, John K. Gohagan, and Nadarajen A. Vydelingum

 Journal of Evolutionary Medicine    Vol. 2 (2014), Article ID 235678, 8 pages    doi:10.4303/jem/235678  (open access)


Unsatisfactory progress in cancer medicine and prevention calls for new research approaches. Research can broaden its view of cancer to include not only specific molecular elements, but also the process that explains their origin and dynamics. This process is Darwinian evolution of somatic cells. Applicable modeling techniques are available from process-oriented systems biology. We review relevant concepts and techniques, and their application to four key open questions in cancer prevention research. Helpful concepts are transferable from classical evolutionary biology and ecology, while useful techniques include computational agent-based modeling. The research questions we review include (1) why do benign neoplasms often progress to malignancy? (2) what is the chronological sequence of molecular events in cancer progression? (3) how can we find reliable molecular biomarkers for cancer? and (4) will evolved drug resistance stymie efforts at a long-term cancer chemoprevention? We conclude that molecular analysis can be usefully augmented with process-oriented systems biology to guide empirical research into the most productive directions.


The 28 articles  nominated for the 2014 Omenn Prize by the deadline are listed below. The prize of $5000 will be awarded in March 2015 for the best  article published in 2014 in any scientific journal on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health.  The Prize is made possible by a generous donation from Gilbert Omenn to the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health. The prize committee is chaired by Sarah Tishkoff; the other committee members are Joe Alcock, Noah Rosenberg, and Alison Galvani. Continue Reading »

The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health maintains a list of over 500 people who work in areas at the interface of evolution and medicine/public health.   The purpose of The Evolution and Medicine Network  is to facilitate contact among those with shared interests.  If, for instance, you are giving a talk in London, you can quickly find out people there who shares your interests.

If your research or teaching is focused in an area related to evolution and medicine and you would like to make it possible for others to find you please add your information to the list. It will take under a minute.

  Illness in breastfeeding infants relates to concentration of lactoferrin and secretory Immunoglobulin A in mother’s milk
By Alicia A Breakey, Katie Hinde, Claudia R Valeggia, Allison Sinofsky, and  Peter T Ellison

Evol Med Public Health published 20 January 2015, 10.1093/emph/eov002
We tested the relationship between infant illness and two immune factors
in milk, lactoferrin and secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA). We found that
milk lactoferrin is positively related to symptoms of illness, suggesting
a responsive pattern, while milk sIgA is negatively related to illness,
suggesting it has a protective role. Milk lactoferrin is positively
related to symptoms of illness, while milk sIgA is negatively related to
illness among Toba infants.

  Post-term birth as a response to environmental stress: the case of September 11, 2001
  Claire Margerison-Zilko, Julia M. Goodman, Elizabeth Anderson, Alison Gemmill, and Ralph A. Catalano

Evol Med Public Health published 16 January 2015, 10.1093/emph/eov001
The odds of post-term delivery among gestations exposed to the terrorist
attacks of September 2001 in the 33-36th week of gestation were higher
than statistically expected. This finding provides support for our
hypothesis that maternal exposure to stress late in pregnancy may result
in an adaptive response of prolonged gestation.


The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health invites nominations for the Omenn Prize of $5000 to be awarded in March 2015 for the best  article published in 2014 in any scientific journal on a topic related to evolution in the context of medicine and public health. Continue Reading »

The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health meeting March 19-21 in Arizona has support for student and faculty travel awards, thanks to the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, the Triangle Center for Evolution and Medicine, and donations to the Foundation for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health. Meeting details are at http://evmedmeeting.org.  Applications for travel awards may be submitted  without first registering for the conference.   Deadlines Jan 8 and Jan 10. Continue Reading »

Iron is a critical metal for essential cellular processes, such as respiration, in both human and microbial cells.  Thus, in the context of infection, iron is a high-value cellular commodity and an evolutionist might reasonably expect a metallic tug-of-war between host and pathogen iron-binding proteins or other iron-binding molecules (siderophores).  This speculation is impressively supported in a paper published this month (Barber and Elde, 2014).  These authors provide strong evidence for positive selection affecting several sites in host (transferrin, Tf) and pathogen (transferrin binding protein A) iron-binding proteins based on a combination of genetic, structural, and functional experimental methods. Continue Reading »

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The below essay by Andriy Marusyk provides a commentary to a recent article by Wong, et al. pertaining to the mechanisms of chemo/radio and therapy induced cancers. Prevailing views explain therapy-induced cancers by postulating induction of new driver mutations.  Whereas several previous reports have challenged this mutation centric view, the article by Wong, et al. is the first report that strongly implies increased selection for p53 mutant clones in secondary malignancies induced by radiation/chemotherapy in clinics.

Cancer evolution: selection matters

By Andriy Marusyk 

Cancers arise and progress because of the underlying somatic clonal evolution. Continue Reading »

Just published in Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health
Limits to compensatory adaptation and the persistence of antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria
By Craig MacLean and Tom Vogwill

Evol Med Public Health published 21 December 2014, 10.1093/emph/eou032
http://emph.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/12/21/emph.eou032.abstract?papetoc  (open access)

Antibiotic resistance carries a fitness cost that could potentially limit the spread of resistance in bacterial pathogens. In spite of this cost, a large number of experimental evolution studies have found that resistance is stably maintained in the absence of antibiotics as a result of compensatory evolution. Clinical studies, on the other hand, Continue Reading »

By  Victor J. Thannickal, Yong Zhou, Amit Gaggar, Steven R. Duncan
J. Clin. Invest. 124(11): 4673-4677 (2014). doi:10.1172/JCI74368.
Published in Volume 124, Issue 11 (November 3, 2014) (Not open access)

Abstract:  Fibrotic disorders account for an increasing burden of disease-associated morbidity and mortality worldwide. Although numerous risk factors have been recognized, the etiologies of many of these clinical syndromes have not been identified, and they are often termed idiopathic or cryptogenic. Here, we provide an evolutionary perspective on fibrosis aimed at elucidating its etiopathogenesis. By asking the ultimatequestion of “why” this process evolved in multicellular organisms, we hope to uncover proximateexplanations for “how” it causes disease in humans. We posit that physiological fibrosis-like reactions evolved as an essential process in host defense against pathogens and in normal wound healing. Based on this premise, we reason that pathological fibrosis is related to one or more of the following: unidentified infectious or noninfectious antigens, autoimmunity, impaired regenerative responses, and the antagonistically pleiotropic action of genes involved in wound healing or development. The importance of genetic susceptibility, epigenetics, aging, and the modern-day environment are highlighted. Consideration of both ultimate and proximate causation goes beyond philosophical cogitations, as it will better inform pathobiological mechanisms of disease and aid in the prevention and treatment of fibrotic diseases.

Funding is available from the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) and the Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine (TriCEM) to support travel by faculty from under-represented groups in science to the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health meeting in Arizona March 19-21.    Applicants must be from an under-represented group in science and be on the faculty at a Minority Serving Institution or Historically Black College or University.
Submission Deadline: January 8, 2015
Notification: January 15, 2015

Todays NYTimes has an article by  Christopher von Rueden summarizing his recent publication in Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health on how low social status influences health: Political influence associates with cortisol and health among egalitarian forager-farmers  (open access)

Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health is  the venue for important publications in our field. Publication fees are waived for a short time,  author’s instructions are here.

WHAT is the relationship between social status and health?  

by Christopher von Rueden in the New York Times December 14, 2014

This is a tricky question. In modern industrialized societies, health certainly improves as you move up the socioeconomic ladder, but much of that trend is a result of health care and lifestyle factors (diet, physical activity) that are associated with income — not relative social position per se.

If you want to see how status affects health, you have to isolate status from material wealth. How to do that? The easiest way is to observe a society in which there is minimal material wealth to contest and where there are limited avenues for status competition.

So that is what my colleagues and I did. For several years, we studied the Tsimane forager-horticulturalists of Amazonian Bolivia, (read more)


An article published online at the Nature web site on November 24 (Chou et al., 2014) presents a fascinating study of examples in which bacterial genes have found their way to a number of distinct eukaryotic lineages including ticks and mites, gastropod (e.g., snails and slugs) and bivalve mollusks (e.g. clams and oysters), and choanoflagellates (a subset of ptotozoans).  Type VI secretion amidase effector (Tae) molecules (encoded by tae genes) can kill rival bacteria by degrading their cells walls when delivered into those competing cells.  The eukaryotes cited above all have “domesticated amidase effectors” (dae) genes, all of which are extremely similar to one of the four extant bacterial tae genes.  Of the four tae genes found in bacterial species, three have been transferred to one or another eukaryotic genome. Continue Reading »

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Below are new open access articles just published in Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health Continue Reading »

Evolutionary Medicine Conference: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Health and Disease

July 30 – August 1, 2015 at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)University of Zurich, Switzerland Continue Reading »


The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, & Public Health will hold its inaugural meeting March 19-21 in Tempe, Arizona. Early registration and abstract submissions until December 1st. Early registrants receive a substantial discount, and all fees are refundable until February 15th. Continue Reading »

Proposals for Catalysis Meetings in Evolutionary Medicine are now being accepted at The National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent). We are looking to support innovative approaches to outstanding problems, specifically in areas realted to evolutionary medicine. Appropriate areas of inquiry include any field of evolutionary science that is relevant to medicine, or to human or animal health. Continue Reading »

Research Grants in the broader field of Evolutionary Medicine available at the Institute of Evolutionary Medicine IEM (Medical Faculty), University of Zurich (Switzerland).  The IEM grant 2015 application submission is open until Dec 1, 2014. Find more information in the attached call for submissions or onhttp://www.iem.uzh.ch/research/iemgrant.html.


Arizona State University: Two tenure track positions. Closing date, December 1, 2014

The ASU Center for Evolution and Medicine and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change invite applications for up to two tenure-eligible faculty positions in a transformative research and teaching initiative that will establish evolutionary biology as a crucial basic science for medicine and public health. Appointment may be at the assistant or associate level. Rank and tenure status will be commensurate with experience. Research areas may include topical focus on the implications for health of one or more of the following: diet/metabolism, the developmental origins of human disease, behavior, reproduction/development, environmental exposures, life history, and ecological conditions in small scale societies. These topics can be in reference to current and past epidemics and/or diseases of modern environments.  https://academicjobsonline.org/ajo/jobs/4835


Open access publishing in Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health remains free through the end of 2014.  Submit now to avoid substantial publication charges in 2015.  The journal web site is at http://emph.oxfordjournals.org/       Click on Instruction to Authors for information on the types of articles published and how to submit them.

This Oxford University Press Journal, edited by Stephen Stearns, is particularly interested in original research articles.

The journal also welcomes proposals for review articles and Clinical Briefs (a new type of article pioneered at EMPH). If you have an idea for a review paper, or know of one that your colleagues are considering, please contact the Reviews Editor, Bernie Crespi (crespi@sfu.ca).

If you know of a book relevant to evolutionary medicine that you would like to see reviewed, please contact Steve Austad (austad@uthscsa.edu).  He can arrange to have it shipped directly to the chosen reviewer.

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