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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

My interest in scientific research began 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.



Athar Khalil

Postdoctoral Fellow

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

Grad Students


Gianna Dingillo

Medical Student (M1)

Gianna studied biophysics at Loyola University Chicago and earned her master’s in medical science at Boston University.


Nick Latina

PhD student

I grew up in Kent, OH. While pursuing my undergrad degree at The Ohio State University, I was given the opportunity to shadow in a lab here at Case. This molecular biology lab introduced me to cancer research, and the wet lab environment.



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
Most cancers carry a substantial deleterious load due to Hill-Robertson interference
Mapping the in vivo fitness landscape of lung adenocarcinoma tumor suppression in mice
Compositions and methods for multiplexed quantitative analysis of cell lineages

Join Us!

Scientists of all academic levels are encouraged to apply. All members must be team players, demonstrate scientific curiosity and self-motivation, and articulate a scientific vision that aligns with the lab’s goals. Both life & physical scientists; MD & PhD students; and wet- and dry-lab specialists are encouraged to apply.

Everyone in 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 Please email Prof. McFarland with a Cover Letter and CV.

There are also several internal and external fellowships (e.g. CoGEC) that I am happy to discuss and sponsor (some require US citizenship), however supplemental funding is not necessary to join our group.
Graduate Students "Integrative Biology" isn't the newest department at Case — it's been our governing philosophy since designing the first joint MD-PhD program in 1956 (apply here). Our PhD only program is equally integrative: students submit a single application, choose from over 30 programs in the life and medical sciences, rotate within any lab accepting students, and then join whichever program best suits their integrative educational goals (apply here). You are not the property of a department at Case.

Please mention Prof. 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 Undergraduate students 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 send to Prof. McFarland a CV/Resume and Cover Letter explaining why your scientific goals align with the lab’s. Summer students (especially non-CWRU) 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.