Somarelli Joins Leadership of New AACR Cancer Evolution Working Group

Jason Somarelli
Frontiers Somarelli paper graphic
This graphic appeared in The Hallmarks of Cancer as Ecologically Driven Phenotypes authored by Jason Somarelli, PhD (the April 2021 edition of Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) announced, on July 28, the formation of its seventh and newest scientific working group — the AACR Cancer Evolution Working Group — which will be dedicated to supporting cancer evolution research.

Jason Somarelli, PhD — a Duke Cancer Institute molecular biologist who serves as director of Research, Duke Comparative Oncology Group at DCI, and whose research focuses on understanding the development and spread of cancer through the lens of comparative and evolutionary biology — is one of nine members recently named to serve on the new working group's Executive Committee.

He joins:

  • co-chairs Frank H. Laukien, PhD (Bruker Corporation,The Oncology Think Tank, and Harvard University) and Charles Swanton, MBPhD, FRCP, FMedSci, FRS, FAACR (Royal Society Napier, The Francis Crick Institute and UCL Cancer Institute, London, United Kingdom);
  • co-chairs elect Anna D. Barker, PhD, FAACR (University of Southern California) and Jeffrey P. Townsend, PhD (Yale School of Public Health);
  • Denis Noble, CBE, FRS, FMedSci, MAE (University of Oxford);
  • Kenneth J. Pienta, MD (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine);
  • George H. Poste, DVM, PhD, FRCPath, FMedSci, CBE, FRS (Arizona State University); and
  • Susan M. Rosenberg, PhD (Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine)
Mark Dewhirst and Jason Somarelli
Molecular biologist Jason Somarelli, PhD (at right) poses with Mark Dewhirst, DVM, PhD, a canine comparative oncology pioneer, at the fourth annual Consortium for Canine Comparative Oncology (c3o) Symposium (Feb. 2019). Somarelli's own work includes canine oncology research.

An additional 27 researchers — from all over the world — have been named to the inaugural AACR Cancer Evolution Working Group Steering Committee.

According to a press release issued by AACR, the mission of the new working group is "to advance cancer diagnostic, therapeutic, and prevention strategies by fostering a fundamental understanding of cancer evolution amongst its members and the broader cancer research community."

“The field of cancer evolution has emerged as a vital area in cancer research and improved patient care, and the AACR stands committed to supporting the advancement of this important scientific area,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “The working group’s inaugural leadership body has been crafted to include luminaries and thought leaders from around the world whose unique scientific expertise will be collectively harnessed to enhance and nourish the AACR’s support of cancer evolution research.”

Somarelli holds both an assistant professorship in the Department of Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology and an assistant professorship in Marine Science and Conservation at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University.

Over the past year, Somarelli has published, as sole author, in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution on The Hallmarks of Cancer as Ecologically Driven Phenotypes; as senior author, in Frontiers in Marine Science on Exploring the Diversity of the Marine Environment for New Anti-cancer Compounds; and as first author, in Cancers on A Comparative Oncology Drug Discovery Pipeline to Identify and Validate New Treatments for Osteosarcoma. This was in addition to being listed as a contributing author on multiple basic science articles covering a range of topics that included chondroblastoma, osteosarcoma, prostate cancer, radiotherapy, colorectal cancer, precision medicine and plastics pollution.

whale graphic for August 2019 Magnify
“Almost two thirds of our anti-cancer compounds come from natural products, but less than one percent of those come from a marine environment...It’s not that anti-cancer compounds aren’t there, it’s that we are not looking for them.” — Jason Somarelli, PhD, in Magnify, August 2019 (Cancer is responsible for approximately 27% of beluga whale deaths, 25% of human deaths, and 47% of canine deaths)

He is also a founding faculty member of the Scholars in Marine Medicine program at Duke that offers undergraduate students research experience at the nexus of medicine and marine science. In 2019-2020 he led the Bass Connections "Learning from Whales: Oxygen, Ecosystems and Human Health" Project Team. And this year, Somarelli received a leadership award for leading the Bass Connections Project Team "Bioremediation of Plastic Pollution to Conserve Marine Biodiversity" that's working to create a lab strain of bacteria capable of rapidly degrading plastic to restore environmental health and conserve marine biodiversity.

Learn More

Read about the AACR Cancer Evolution Working Group and the group's mission

Read about the members of the group's Executive Committee and about the members of the group's Steering Committee

Membership in the AACR Cancer Evolution Working Group is free and open to all members of AACR interested in cancer evolution.

Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes 48,000 laboratory, translational, and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and patient advocates residing in 127 countries. Follow the work of AACR via the Cancer Research Catalyst blog, Twitter and Facebook