The Cancer Evolution Lab @ CWRU


The development of cancer is a somatic evolutionary process. Evolving diseases are difficult to treat because they adapt to treatment and because they continually diversify — from so simple a beginning, endless forms evolved. We integrate evolutionary theory with quantitative experimentation to better understand cancers.


Faculty & Staff


Christopher McFarland

Assistant Professor

I fell in love with scientific research at the age of 16 in the Morse Lab studying gene regulation.


Svyatoslav Tkachenko

Senior Research Associate

My adventure in science started with studying the structure of the neutron and eventually led me to computational biology.


Zach Faber

Lab Manager

I am interested in cancer genomics, high-throughput screening, and developing CRISPR-based technologies.


Mira Rahm

Research Assistant

I am interested in studying cancer as it has a significant impact on public health.



Athar Khalil

Postdoctoral Fellow

I am interested in the fields of translational genomics and molecular oncology.

Grad Students


Xiangzhen Wei

Master Student

I am researching the consequence of heterozygous tumor suppressor losses in vivo by CRISPR/Cas9 mediated Allele-Specific Gene Editing.


Nick Latina

PhD student

I grew up in Kent, OH.



Andrew Chan

Undergraduate Student

My first experience in research was in Dr. Wenjun Zhang’s lab at UC Berkeley where I studied natural product production of anaerobic bacteria.


Technological advances in genomics and computation are revolutionizing our understanding of cancer. We believe these advances will make sense only in the light of evolution. Specifically, we believe evolutionary theory can answer many of the most enigmatic aspects of tumor biology, including:

  • Why do most tumors never progress to malignancy?

  • Why are mutations that drive growth in one tumor maladaptive in another?

  • Why do the other ‘passenger’ mutations appear to be unaffected by natural selection?

To answer these questions, our lab pursues an interdisciplinary and inter-laboratory approach that combines experiment and theory with tech development.


Quantitative in vivo analyses reveal a complex pharmacogenomic landscape in lung adenocarcinoma.
A functional taxonomy of tumor suppression in oncogenic KRAS-driven lung cancer
Mapping the in vivo fitness landscape of lung adenocarcinoma tumor suppression in mice
Compositions and methods for multiplexed quantitative analysis of cell lineages
Multiplexed in vivo homology-directed repair and tumor barcoding enables parallel quantification of Kras variant oncogenicity

Join Us!

Lab Meeting

We welcome scientists of all academic levels and backgrounds (e.g. clinical, physical, or life scientists). All applicants must demonstrate scientific curiosity, self-direction, and be a team player.

The Cancer Evolution group is committed to fostering a better living and learning environment. We value equity and inclusion, and celebrate diversity in all forms.

Postdoctoral Scholars Email Dr. McFarland with a Cover Letter and CV. Internal fellowship opportunities (not required) are found here.
Graduate Students At Case, "Integrative Biology" isn't our newest department — it's been our governing philosophy since we created the first joint MD-PhD program in 1956 (apply here).

Our PhD program is equally-integrative design over 30 degree programs unified in a single application, and rotation program. Students can join any lab accepting students, regardless of department.

Please mention Dr. McFarland in your cover letter, so that I can be sure to review your application. You are also encouraged to contact me directly (before or after applying) to discuss fit.
Undergraduates Undergrads at Case who can commit 10+ hours/week during the school year or 40 hours/week for 10+ weeks during the summer are encouraged to apply. All undergrads will receive either course credit or CWRU's minimum student wadge. Please send Dr. McFarland a CV and Cover Letter explaining why your scientific goals align with the lab's. Summer students from any university are encouraged to apply through SOURCE programs, and are welcome to contact me in advance of applying.
High Schoolers High schoolers with a strong interest in scientific research, and evolutionary and cancer biology, who can commit 10+ hours/week during the school year or 40 hours/week for 10+ weeks during the summer are encouraged to apply. Please refer to these SOURCE guidelines when contacting labs at Case.