Our current research projects at the lab delve around cancer and viral evolution.
Single-cell cancer phylogeography
Very recently, the discovery of extensive intratumor heterogeneity, together with the rise of single-cell genomics, has created a unique opportunity to study the phylogeography of cancer tumor cells. We are sequencing and analyzing single-cell genomes in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and mainly in colorectal cancer to understand the tempo and mode of evolution of cell lineages within and between cancer tumors. By doing so, we aim to construct a robust theoretical and methodological evolutionary framework that can contribute to a better understanding of the process of somatic evolution and shed light on the biology of cancer. This project has been funded by the European Research Council.
Evolutionary genomics of circulating tumor cells
Circulating tumor cells (CTCs), typically found in cancer patients in frequencies of one per billion normal blood cells, are thought to be the source of distant metastases, a process responsible for 90% of the deaths associated with cancer. We are using cancer animal models, single-cell sequencing, and evolutionary biology to identify the genomic characteristics of the CTCs and CTC clusters that succeed in producing metastases and to understand when, where, and how CTCs and CTC clusters originate and propagate. A better understanding of the genomics and the biogeographic history of CTCs and CTC clusters should prove instrumental for unveiling new vulnerabilities for cancer treatment.
Molecular epidemiology and transmission of SARS-CoV-2
Genomic sequencing and analysis is a powerful tool for understanding and managing viral disease outbreaks. If SARS-CoV-2 genome sequencing is carried out quickly and on a large scale, it can help epidemiologists and public health authorities understand how the virus is spreading and evaluate the effectiveness of their interventions. We coordinate a consortium (https://epicovigal.uvigo.es) for real-time genomic monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 in Galicia (NW Spain). In this way, we pretend to understand out how many new cases are imported or come from local transmission, track transmission chains and recent outbreaks, and monitor the dynamics of the genetic variants of the virus that may have clinical relevance. All this is to obtain helpful information for decision-making at the local and regional level in real-time.