10/02 Maley on Cancer

4 PM Tuesday October 2nd,

SPECIAL LOCATION: Danto Auditorium in the Cardiovascular Center

Evolutionary insights for understanding, preventing, and treating cancer

Abstract:  Cancer is a dramatic case of multilevel selection. Selection at the cellular level causes cancer and has defeated every cancer drug ever invented, often leading to death. This selective effect at the organism level has led to the evolution of cancer suppression mechanisms in large, long-lived animals. We are studying the cell level process in order to understand and prevent cancer. We are also applying evolutionary insights to control cancer once it has evolved. In addition, we are studying elephants and whales in order to understand the mechanisms that evolution at the organismal level has discovered for preventing cancer. This is all to say that cancer biology should really be a sub-discipline of evolutionary biology. The fact that it currently is not, probably explains much of why we have made so little progress against cancer.


Carlo C. Maley, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
Director of the Center for Evolution and Cancer
Division of Adult Cardiothoracic Surgery
Thoracic Oncology Program
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center


Carlo C. Maley, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Surgery, a member of the Thoracic Oncology Program and a Principal Investigator in the Thoracic Oncology Lab and Maley Lab. The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center has also tapped Dr. Maley to lead a new Center for Evolution and Cancer.

Dr. Maley received his B.A. in computer science and psychology from Oberlin College in 1991 and his M.Sc. in Zoology (evolutionary theory) from University of Oxford in 1993 where he worked with William D. Hamilton. In 1998, Dr. Maley received a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT where he worked with Michael Donoghue and Rodney Brooks.

Dr. Maley did his postdoctoral training at the University of New Mexico, mentored by Professor Stephanie Forrest, and at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center by Dr. Brian Reid.

Prior to joining UCSF, Dr. Maley was an assistant professor at the Wistar Institute, and a member of two other graduate programs at the University of Pennsylvania: Genomics and Computational Biology, and Cellular and Molecular Biology.

Selected Publications

  1. Merlo, L., Pepper, J., Reid, B.J., Maley, C.C.: Cancer as an evolutionary and ecological process. Nature Reviews Cancer, 6:924-35, 2006.
  2. Pepper, J.W., Findlay, C.S., Kassen, R., Spencer, S.L., and Maley, C.C.: Cancer research meets evolutionary biology. Evolutionary Applications 2:62-70, 2009.
  3. Maley, C.C., Galipeau, P.C., Finley, J.C., Wongsurawat, V.J., Li, X., Sanchez, C.A., Paulson, T.G., Blount, P.L., Risques, R., Rabinovitch, P.S. and Reid, B.J.: Genetic clonal diversity predicts progression to esophageal adenocarcinoma. Nature Genetics, 38:468-473, 2006.
  4. Pepper, J., Sprouffske, K., Maley, C.C.: Cell Differentiation Patterns Suppress Somatic Evolution. PLoS Computational Biology, 3:e250, 2007. Highlighted in Nature Online (http://www.nature.com/news/2007/070917/full/news070917-11.html) PMCID: PMC2134960
  5. Liu, Z., Venkatesh, S.S., Maley, C.C.: Sequence space coverage, entropy of genomes and the potential to detect non-human DNA in human samples. BMC Genomics, 9:509, 2008. PMCID: PMC2628393