Despite decades of intensive research and enormous monetary investments, there has been little change in outlook for many late stage cancers. This is in part due to the predicted presence of a sizable population of resistant cells in the (vast) majority of detectable tumors. Empirical and clinical studies support this prediction. In fact, both the problem of the development of cancer and our difficulty in treating it derive from the evolution of cells within tumors. Because cancer is an evolutionary problem, cancer biology and oncology can benefit from contributions of evolutionary medicine.
The growing fields of cancer evolution and evolutionary medicine are indeed grappling with many similar questions around issues of the evolution of therapeutic resistance and how to use evolutionary principles to enhance patient survival in cancer as well as infectious diseases. Evolution can help understand both how organisms have evolved to resist infectious and non-infectious diseases, but also how microbes and cancer cells evolve in response to our physiology, behavior and medical/public health practices. How can microbes instruct on the dynamics and mechanisms of chemoresistance in cancers? This conference will bring together experts in cancer evolution and evolutionary medicine to discuss these topics and develop a set of key questions for future research in these fields.The goal will be to identify the most promising avenues for research and clinical progress in the prevention and management of evolving diseases, and in particular, cancer.