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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 are integrating evolutionary theory with quantitative experimentation and genomics to better understand and manage cancer.


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.



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.



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.


Advances in genomic and computational technologies are revolutionizing the study of cancer biology. We believe these advances will make sense only in the light of evolution. Specifically, we believe that evolutionary theory can help answer some 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 (and why do some combinations of mutations drive carcinogenesis, while others fail)?

  • Why do most 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 the development of new technologies.


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.

Lab Manager/Technician We are aggressively recruiting a lab manager and a technician. Our lab has funding to support folks looking for a long-term position, and will also support folks interested in attending graduate school down the road.

Details of the Senior and Junior positions.
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 We are recruiting graduate students through the Biomedical Science Training Program (BSTP), Medical Science Training Program (MSTP), and Cancer Biology Training Program (CBTP) at Case. Please note that there are over 30 programs in BTSP ranging from biophysics (my upbringing) to pathology, and that Case is a world leader in integrating basic and clinical sciences. We want to enable your unique career path, not constrain it. In the BSTP program, students first rotate within the lab in their first year. 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.