I am Professor and Head of Medical Genetics at UBC; UBC Canada Research Chair in Genome Science and the Director of the BC Cancer Agency Genome Sciences Centre (GSC). I was trained as a geneticist, and have been involved in the development and application of high-throughput genomics strategies, with special emphasis on large-scale DNA sequencing and bioinformatics. I have spent much of my career working within and leading teams to conduct large-scale high throughput genomics projects.
A current focus of my research activities is the development and application of “next generation” sequencing approaches to characterize cancer genomes, transcriptomes and epigenomes, with the aim of comprehensive identification of the genetic and epigenetic changes that drive cancer progression. With such data, and as co-Leader of the BC Cancer Agency Personalized Oncogenomics Project (http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/episodes/cracking-cancer), my objective is a new generation of diagnostic, prognostic and treatment strategies to benefit cancer patients.
A second focus of my research revolves around the functional interplay between cancer genomes and epigenomes. My team has described the strikingly high frequency of mutations in transcriptional regulators, including chromatin modifiers, implying they are “cancer genes” and that mutations in them drive cancers. The interplay between the genome and the epigenome is thus exploited by cancer cells, but exactly how, the extent to which common mechanisms exist across cancers and whether answers to such questions might reveal therapeutic opportunities all require investigation. My team is analyzing the cancer regulatory networks impacted by epigenome dysregulation using cell biology, genetics, genomics, bioinformatics and functional genomics tools, and we aim to understand the selective advantages conferred to cancer cells as a consequence of such dysregulation. My objectives are to: (1) Identify and characterize regulatory networks disrupted by epigenome dysreulation in cancer; (2) Assess the extent to which epigenome dysregulation converges on common pathways/networks in different malignancies; (3) Identify candidate therapeutic vulnerabilities resulting from epigenome dysregulation.
Lab website: http://www.bcgsc.ca/faculty/mmarra