Van Loo Laboratory
Peter Van Loo, Ph.D.
Areas of Research
- Genome Evolution
- DNA Methylation
- Gastrointestinal Cancer
- Pancreatic Cancer
- Colorectal Cancer
Welcome to the Cancer Genomics and Evolution Laboratory. Our lab uses changes in genetic information in cells to learn more about how cancer develops. We use massively parallel sequencing to pull out these genetic changes, which include the causal events in cancer. By looking at these genetic changes in different types of cancer, we can reconstruct their common genetic history. These data tell us how cancer cells develop and progress over the lifetime of a tumor.
Our laboratory has pioneered molecular archeology of cancer approaches to study the evolutionary history and subclonal architecture of tumors. These approaches have significantly advanced our understanding of how cancer develops and evolves, how metastatic cancer spreads, and how resistance to therapy emerges. We continue to develop these molecular archeology of cancer approaches towards large-scale pan-cancer studies of tumor evolution, as well as focused studies in specific tumor types. Our research aims to answer the key question: How do tumors evolve?
Our Research in Pictures
Artwork by Alex T. J. Cagan
As part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Initiative, our lab coordinated a study to elucidate the evolutionary history of 2,658 cancer from their whole-genome sequences. This identified events recurrently occurring early in tumor development, and showed that many tumors develop over multiple years to even decades, providing a window of opportunity to diagnose tumors early. This study was published in Nature in 2020.
In another study as part of the Pan-Cancer Analysis of Whole Genomes Initiative coordinated by our lab, we showed that intra-tumor heterogeneity is pervasive across cancers, with each cancer type showing its own distinctive picture of intra-tumor heterogeneity. This study was published in Cell in 2021.
Our lab has been an important voice in the scientific debate on approaches to discriminate neutral evolutionary dynamics from subclonal selection. This work was published in Nature Genetics in 2018.
Our lab has recently performed a pan-cancer survey of biallelic mutations in cancer genome, quantifying violations of the infinite sites assumption often explicitly or implicitly made in cancer genomics studies, giving us key insight into mutational determinants. This work is currently in press at Nature Genetics.