Identifying key questions in the ecology and evolution of cancer

Antoine M. Dujon*, Athena Aktipis, Catherine Alix-panabières, Sarah R. Amend, Amy M. Boddy, Joel S. Brown, Jean-pascal Capp, James Degregori, Paul Ewald, Robert Gatenby, Marco Gerlinger, Mathieu Giraudeau, Rodrigo K. Hamede, Elsa Hansen, Irina Kareva, Carlo C. Maley, Andriy Marusyk, Nicholas Mcgranahan, Michael J. Metzger, Aurora M. NedelcuRobert Noble, Leonard Nunney, Kenneth J. Pienta, Kornelia Polyak, Pascal Pujol, Andrew F. Read, Benjamin Roche, Susanne Sebens, Eric Solary, Kateřina Staňková, Holly Swain Ewald, Frédéric Thomas, Beata Ujvari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The application of evolutionary and ecological principles to cancer prevention and treatment, as well as recognizing cancer as a selection force in nature, has gained impetus over the last 50 years. Following the initial theoretical approaches that combined knowledge from interdisciplinary fields, it became clear that using the eco-evolutionary framework is of key importance to understand cancer. We are now at a pivotal point where accumulating evidence starts to steer the future directions of the discipline and allows us to underpin the key challenges that remain to be addressed. Here, we aim to assess current advancements in the field and to suggest future directions for research. First, we summarize cancer research areas that, so far, have assimilated ecological and evolutionary principles into their approaches and illustrate their key importance. Then, we assembled 33 experts and identified 84 key questions, organized around nine major themes, to pave the foundations for research to come. We highlight the urgent need for broadening the portfolio of research directions to stimulate novel approaches at the interface of oncology and ecological and evolutionary sciences. We conclude that progressive and efficient cross-disciplinary collaborations that draw on the expertise of the fields of ecology, evolution and cancer are essential in order to efficiently address current and future questions about cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)877-892
Number of pages16
JournalEvolutionary Applications
Issue number4
Early online date8 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021


  • cancer therapy
  • contemporary evolution
  • evolutionary medicine
  • genetics
  • neoplasm
  • species interactions

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