The evolutionary history of 2,658 cancers

The evolutionary history of 2,658 cancers

A major new open access paper in today’s Nature describes the evolutionary history of somatic mutations that result in cancer. It confirms the primary role of driver mutations and that these often occur early in development, just as Steve Frank predicted in his 2007 book Dynamics of Cancer. Later mutations are much more likely to be divergent.

Abstract: Cancer develops through a process of somatic evolution1,2. Sequencing data from a single biopsy represent a snapshot of this process that can reveal the timing of specific genomic aberrations and the changing influence of mutational processes3. Here, by whole-genome sequencing analysis of 2,658 cancers as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes (PCAWG) Consortium of the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC) and The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA)4, we reconstruct the life history and evolution of mutational processes and driver mutation sequences of 38 types of cancer. Early oncogenesis is characterized by mutations in a constrained set of driver genes, and specific copy number gains, such as trisomy 7 in glioblastoma and isochromosome 17q in medulloblastoma. The mutational spectrum changes significantly throughout tumour evolution in 40% of samples. A nearly fourfold diversification of driver genes and increased genomic instability are features of later stages. Copy number alterations often occur in mitotic crises, and lead to simultaneous gains of chromosomal segments. Timing analyses suggest that driver mutations often precede diagnosis by many years, if not decades. Together, these results determine the evolutionary trajectories of cancer, and highlight opportunities for early cancer detection.

ISEMPH 2020 Registration Open Now!

ISEMPH 2020 Registration Open Now!

Registration and abstract submission are now open for the 6th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health at the lovely University of Georgia Conference Center July 15-18, 2020.

Registration information is here.   
To register for the meeting, click here. 
Abstract submission information is here.   
To submit an abstract, click here.
Travel and lodging information is here.

Important Dates

  • February 29: End of special discounts for joining ISEMPH
  • April 1: Abstract submission deadline
  • April 30: Discounted early registration closes  
  • May 8: Abstract notifications
  • June 1: Last day to cancel registration and get a refund
  • June 30: Late registration begins, final program posted.
  • July 15, 2020: Welcome reception in the evening, pre-meeting activities during that day will include a pre-conference workshop on “The Evolution of Emerging Viruses”
  • July 15-18: The 6th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 

About the 2020 Annual Meeting

The Sixth Annual Meeting of the International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health will be in Athens, Georgia, from July 15-18, 2020. ISEMPH 2020 will gather delegates from around the world. It follows in the footsteps of successful previous meetings in Tempe, Arizona; Durham, North Carolina; Groningen, The Netherlands; Park City, Utah; and Zurich, Switzerland. ISEMPH 2020 is profoundly interdisciplinary and emphasizes the multiple interfaces between evolutionary biology and human health in the complementary fields of medicine, evolutionary biology, anthropology, evolutionary psychology, behavioral ecology and epidemiology. The meetings welcome students and clinicians at all stages of professional development.

The 2020 program will include plenary sessions led by some of the world’s leading evolutionary medicine experts including:

Kevin Keel, DVM, PhD, Associate Professor of Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

Sudhir Kumar, PhD, the Laurel H. Carnell Professor and Director of the Institute of Genomics and Evolutionary Medicine at Temple University, who will speak on how “Evolution Informs Genomic Medicine.”

Paul Turner, PhD, the Rachel Carson Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale University School of Medicine, who will speak about “Leveraging Evolutionary Trade-Offs and Phage Selection Pressure to Reduce Bacterial Pathogenicity.”

The International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health fosters communication among scientists, students, clinicians, and public health professionals who use evolutionary insights to improve medical research and practice, and information on human health and disease to advance evolutionary biology.  ISEMPH sponsors annual meetings, the journal Evolution, Medicine, & Public HealthThe Evolution and Medicine Review, and EvMedEd.

Have questions? Email us at:  meeting@isemph.org

Hosting Committee Chair: Elizabeth Uhl, Associate Professor of Anatomic Pathology, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia. 

Program Committee Chair: Michael Muehlenbein, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, Baylor University

Applications for Continuing Education Credits are being submitted.

Five new EMPH publications

Five new EMPH publications

The first month of 2020 brings five new open access publications in Evolution, Medicine and Public Health.

Biological normalcy by Andrea S WileyJennifer M Cullin

Culture, behavior and health by Margarita HernandezJames K. Gibb

Fish consumption is associated with school performance in children in a non-linear way: Results from the German cohort study KiGGS by A LehnerK StaubL AldakakP EppenbergerF Rühli …

The Maternal Nutritional Buffering Model: an evolutionary framework for pregnancy nutritional intervention by Zaneta M ThayerJulienne RutherfordChristopher W Kuzawa

Randolph M. Nesse, Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry Book Review by Steven Austad

Smoke and natural selection

Smoke and natural selection

Twenty years ago I listed several questions about evolution and medicine that I hoped someone would work on. The first was, “Has exposure to smoke shaped human adaptations?” The amazingly comprehensive answer is provided in “The Exposome in Human Evolution: From Dust to Diesela new article by Finch and Trumble in the Quarterly Review of Biology. The article is unfortunately behind a paywall, but Carl Zimmer provides a wonderful overview in the NY Times.

Abstract: Global exposures to air pollution and cigarette smoke are novel in human evolutionary history and are associated with at least 12 million premature deaths per year. We investigate the history of the human exposome for relationships between novel environmental toxins and genetic changes during human evolution in six phases. Phase I: With increased walking on savannas, early human ancestors inhaled crustal dust, fecal aerosols, and spores; carrion scavenging introduced new infectious pathogens. Phase II: Domestic fire exposed early Homo to novel toxins from smoke and cooking. Phases III and IV: Neolithic to preindustrial Homo sapiens incurred infectious pathogens from domestic animals and dense communities with limited sanitation. Phase V: Industrialization introduced novel toxins from fossil fuels, industrial chemicals, and tobacco at the same time infectious pathogens were diminishing. Thereby, pathogen-driven causes of mortality were replaced by chronic diseases driven by sterile inflammogens, exogenous and endogenous. Phase VI: Considers future health during global warming with increased air pollution and infections. We hypothesize that adaptation to some ancient toxins persists in genetic variations associated with inflammation and longevity.

TriCEM's Evolutionary Medicine Summer Institute

TriCEM's Evolutionary Medicine Summer Institute

Applications open now

We are excited to announce that we are now accepting applications for the 2020 Evolutionary Medicine Summer Institute (EMSI), held May 17-22 at NC State. The goal of EMSI is to introduce core evolutionary concepts to a wide range of topics in human health and disease, including public health, and to train physicians and medical scientists in computational methods used in evolutionary and ecological research.

EMSI brings together internationally recognized experts in evolutionary biology with students and health practitioners who want to apply these perspectives to cancer, infectious disease, evolution of microbial resistance, neurology, autoimmune disease, the microbiome, and more. Lectures on key concepts are complimented with hands-on computational exercises. Our goal is to give participants the background on evolutionary principles and the tools to apply evolutionary biology to questions of medical and veterinary importance.

For more information, including last year’s schedule, please visit the EMSI website. To apply, fill out this form by the deadline of March 20, 2020.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to Meredith Spence Beaulieu (meredith.spence.beaulieu@duke.edu) or Courtni France (cnf12@duke.edu).