Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (ACE)

Welcome to ACE

The mission of the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center (ACE) is to advance our fundamental understanding of cancer and its clinical management through the development and application of evolutionary and ecological models to cancer biology. ACE is funded by the National Cancer Institute under the Cancer Systems Biology Consortium.

Find out more



ACE Works with School Science Club

Our visit to Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School in Chandler, Arizona was huge fun! We were talking about blood and cancer across the animal kingdom in The DISCOVERoom, where children who want to learn more about science spend their lunchtimes. The kids were in grades K – 5 and we were amazed and delighted by their enthusiasm.

Support Us

We seek funds to support the upkeep of a crested cactus garden that been installed near the new Biodesign building C on the ASU campus in Tempe, AZ. This garden, “Endless Forms Most Beautiful”, dedicated to people impacted by cancer, is a part of the new Arizona Cancer and Evolution (ACE) Center.


Support our Cactus Garden

Our Projects

Organismal Evolution and Cancer Defenses

Here we are using Life History Theory to compare cancer rates across species in zoos and wildlife reserves and uncover the selective pressures that reduce cancer defenses in some animals and enhance them in others.  Our work will give new clues to cancer avoidance mechanisms that have evolved in the animal kingdom that can be used to prevent and treat cancers in humans.

Somatic Cell Evolution in Small Human Replicative Units

This Project studies somatic cell evolution in human colon crypts and tumor glands to determine whether gene selection or neutral genetic drift is more common during normal human aging and tumor progression. We are also examining the gene functioning of tumor cells in species identified in the Organismal Evolution and Cancer Defenses project (above) to test the predictions of Life History Theory.

Neoplastic Cell Evolution

This project takes into account both the evolution of cancer cell mutations and the environment surrounding a tumor in order to develop a better predictive test for the invasiveness of a tumor. We will also hope to be able to understand which aspects of a mutation most impact survival and which are most important to target when considering treatment.

Public Engagement

We love to talk about our work and explain what we do. One of our research themes concerns the prevalence of cancer throughout the multi-celled world and to illustrate this we are building a cancer cactus garden on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University. Here  the weird and beautiful plant forms will illustrate the ubiquity of cancer. Check our progress or visit the garden if you get the chance. We also put on public lectures and seminars – check our events listings – and recordings of past events. If you are a teacher in the Phoenix area and would like a school talk about cancer in animals and plants from our talented team, please contact us.