Dr. Aparicio is studying the genomics of single cells to understand tumour evolution. He is one 16 speakers that will present at the GSC’s 20th Anniversary Symposium, November 21, 2019. 

Sam AparicioWhen Dr. Aparicio embarked on his PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Sydney Brenner in 1991, he planned to study neuronal cells of the retina. But his plans were quickly derailed, starting him down the path to cancer genomics.

“When I got to the lab, Sydney wanted to tell me about an exciting new project he was working on,” says Dr. Aparicio, “I ended up working on the genome of a pufferfish and never did get around to the nervous system.”

Following his medical training at Oxford and doctoral work in Cambridge, Dr. Aparicio held a Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship at the Wellcome/CRUK Developmental Biology Institute. He became a senior investigator in the Department of Oncology at Cambridge in 2000. In 2005, he moved to Vancouver where he is now the Nan & Lorraine Robertson Chair in Breast Cancer Research at UBC and Head of the Department of Breast and Molecular Oncology at BC Cancer. He was a co-founder of Paradigm Therapeutics (now, Takeda Cambridge) and Contextual Genomics Ltd. He was elected to the Royal Society of Canada in 2016 and is honored with being a Distinguished University Scholar at UBC. Dr. Aparicio has published 182 papers in genomics and genetics of disease in high impact journals including New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Science and Cell.

His laboratory is developing techniques to enable co-measurements of genomes, transcriptomes and proteomes from single cells without destroying the spacial context of tumours.

“We are entering an era where the study of genomics in individual cells is becoming a new frontier,” says Dr. Aparicio, “in cancer, this is quintessentially important. The biological paradigm is that cancer is not a static disease.”

The aim is to understand cancer cell evolution; how individual cells within a tumour are related to one another in space within the tissue and over time. He is combining this with mathematical modeling and computational biology to enable predictive modeling of Darwinian evolution within tumour cell populations. He is applying these groundbreaking advances in single cell genomics to cancers with extreme heterogeneity such as triple negative breast cancer.

Dr. Aparicio has a long-standing and successful scientific partnership with researchers at the GSC, leading to an abundance of discoveries and high-impact publications. When he moved to Vancouver, he was intrigued by the opportunities that BC Cancer and the GSC afforded him. The willingness of clinicians to participate in translational research combined with leading sequencing technologies at the GSC enabled his laboratory to contribute to the first wave of discoveries in cancer genomics.

At the GSC’s upcoming 20th anniversary symposium, Dr. Aparicio will describe how the GSC has contributed to the success of his research program with a focus on his latest research in single cell genomics.

“Everyone speaking at the symposium has contributed significantly to the field of genomics,” says Dr. Aparicio, “I think it will be fascinating.” 

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