The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Department of Genetics
The Cancer Genomics and Evolution laboratory headed by Prof. Van Loo aims to answer the key question “How do tumors evolve?”.
Cancer is caused by somatic changes to the genome. Breakthrough sequencing technologies now enable us to compare the genomes and epigenomes of cancer cells to those of normal cells to base-pair resolution. This in theory allows us to identify all (epi)genomic changes in a cancer cell, providing a unique opportunity to look at the genes and processes involved in cancer. As genomic changes occur throughout a tumor's lifetime, a cancer's genome is also an archeological record of its past, allowing a unique view of the tumor's evolutionary history. The Van Loo lab aims to reconstruct cancer’s evolutionary record to gain insight into the development and evolution of cancer, and into how tumors metastasize.
Recent successes of the laboratory include pan-cancer studies of the evolutionary history of cancer (Gerstung et al., Nature 2020), intra-tumor heterogeneity (Dentro et al., Cell 2021) and the mutational landscape in non-unique regions of the human genome (Tarabichi et al., Nature Biotechnology 2021).
Projects in the Cancer Genomics and Evolution laboratory focus around three big themes:
- Inferring the evolutionary history and subclonal architecture of cancers from their genomes, through bulk whole-genome sequencing, single-cell sequencing, or a combination of both.
- Development and large-scale application of novel approaches to study intra-tumor heterogeneity and tumor evolution from other omics layers, such as RNA sequencing and bisulfite sequencing.
- Cancer genes and mutational processes in cancer, with a focus on identifying novel rare cancer genes, and on identifying, characterizing and timing mutational processes causing copy number changes and complex structural variants in cancer evolution
Education & Training
PhD, University of Leuven, 2008