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Cathie Garnis, PhD

Senior Scientist - Genetics Unit, Integrative Oncology

20100729_CGarnis   Rm 10-122 ▪ 675 West 10th Avenue, Vancouver, B.C., V5Z 1L3, Canada

Current Appointments

Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgery, Division of Otolaryngology, University of British Columbia

Senior Scientist, Genetics Unit, Integrative Oncology Department, BC Cancer Research Centre


BSc (Cell Biology and Genetics), University of British Columbia, 2000
PhD (Pathology and Laboratory Medicine), University of British Columbia, 2005
Post-doctoral Associate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008

PLEASE NOTE: Garnis Lab activities are regularly updated at

Research Interests

Our primary research interests are focused around head and neck malignancies. These are a group of biologically similar tumors originating from tissue of the upper aerodigestive tract, including the lip, oral cavity (mouth), nasal passages, paranasal sinuses, oropharynx, and larynx. More than 4,300 Canadians will be diagnosed with this type of cancer this year and approximately 1,600 of them will die from it.

Currently, histopathological criteria are the gold standard for grading and classifying many tumor types. In recent years it has become clear that cancers with very similar morphologies may have drastically different underlying gene changes. Given that cancer is a disease driven by accumulated gene changes, it is imperative that we determine which of these changes are associated with specific clinical parameters. This will ultimately give us insight into mechanisms driving observed clinical behaviors (chemoresistance, metastasis, etc.) and provide us with effective biomarkers for guiding treatment strategies.

At the Garnis Lab, we are using molecular profiles of head and neck malignancies to better understand the gene changes involved in initiation and progression of this disease. We are looking into dysregulation of the genome and transcriptome (including non-coding RNAs) to develop molecular stratifications for what is presently treated as a homogeneous disease.

In addition to analyzing tumor tissues, we are investigating the utility of surface epithelial markers and blood-based biomarkers for managing disease. Surface epithelial markers may arise due to malignancy-associated changes (MACs) in normal tissues and may be useful for detecting disease when tumors arise in inaccessible locations, such as tonsillar crypts, which is common in the oropharynx. Regarding blood-based biomarkers, we are presently examining the oncogenic impacts of microRNAs that are secreted via extracellular vesicles (such as exosomes). These factors may not only have utility as biomarkers for early detection or disease recurrence; they may also be exploitable as therapeutic targets..

Garnis Lab Members

Danielle Truong (Research Technician) -

James Lawson (Summer Student) -

Jamil Manji (Graduate Student) -

Marina Laissus (Visiting Scientist/Student) -

Mike Gorenchtein (Graduate Student) -

Rajan Saini (Post-doctoral Fellow) -

Rebecca Towle (Graduate Student)

Sara Maclellan (Graduate Student) -

Shevaun Hughes (Graduate Student) -


Students and Fellows

[To be updated.]


Angie Chu (Research Technician)

Razan Sheta (Research Technician)

Solene Debesson-Narce (Summer Student)

Garnis Lab Publications

Refereed Articles

Lawson J, Dickman C, Towle R, Jabalee J, Javer A, Garnis C. (2018). Extracellular vesicle secretion of miR-142-3p from lung adenocarcinoma cells induces tumor promoting changes in the stroma through cell-cell communication. Mol Carcinog. doi: 10.1002/mc.22935. [Epub ahead of print]

Manji J, Thamboo A, Tacey M, Garnis C, Chadha NK.  (2018) The presence of Interleukin-13 in nasal lavage may be a predictor of nasal polyposis in pediatric patients with cystic fibrosis. Rhinology,  56(3):261-267.

Jabalee J, Towle R, Garnis C. (2018) The Role of Extracellular Vesicles in Cancer: Cargo, Function, and Therapeutic Implications.  Cells. 7(8), pii: E93. doi: 10.3390/cells7080093.

Jabalee J, Carraro A, Ng T, Prisman E, Garnis C, Guillaud M.  (2018) Identification of Malignancy-Associated Changes in Histologically Normal Tumor-Adjacent Epithelium of Patients with HPV-Positive Oropharyngeal Cancer. Anal Cell Pathol (Amst), 2018:1607814.

Lawson J, Dickman C, MacLellan S, Towle R, Jabalee J, Lam S, Garnis C. (2017) Selective secretion of microRNAs from lung cancer cells via extracellular vesicles promotes CAMK1D-mediated tube formation in endothelial cells. Oncotarget, 8(48):83913-83924. 

Dickman CT, Lawson J, Jabalee J, MacLellan SA, LePard NE, Bennewith KL, Garnis C. (2017) Selective extracellular vesicle exclusion of miR-142-3p by oral cancer cells promotes both internal and extracellular malignant phenotypes. Oncotarget (In Press).

Dickman CT, Towle R, Saini R, Garnis C (2015) Molecular characterization of immortalized normal and dysplastic oral cell lines. J Oral Pathol Med,


Towle R, Truong D, Garnis C. (2016) Epigenetic mediated silencing of EYA4 contributes to tumorigenesis in oral dysplastic cells. Genes Chromosomes and Cancer, 55(7):568-76.

Bhimrao SK, Maguire J, Garnis C, Tang P, Lea J, Akagami R, Westerberg BD (2015) Lack of Association between Human Herpesvirus and Vestibular Schwannoma: Analysis of 121 Cases. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg, 152(3):513-7.

MacLellan SA, MacAulay C, Lam S, Garnis C (2014) Pre-profiling factors influencing serum microRNA levels. BMC Clin Pathol, 21;14:27.

Towle R, Tsui IF, Zhu Y, MacLellan S, Poh CF, Garnis C (2014) Recurring DNA copy number gain at chromosome 9p13 plays a role in the activation of multiple candidate oncogenes in progressing oral premalignant lesions. Cancer Med, 3(5):1170-84.

Towle R, Gorenchtein M, Dickman C, Zhu Y, Poh CF, Garnis C (2014) Dysregulation of microRNAs across oral squamous cell carcinoma fields in non-smokers. JBR Journal of Interdisciplinary Medicine and Dental Science, 2:4.

Li G, van Niekerk D, Miller D, Ehlen T, Garnis C, Follen M, Guillaud M, Macaulay C (2014) Molecular fixative enables expression microarray analysis of microdissected clinical cervical specimens. Exp Mol Pathol, 96(2):168-177.

Towle R, Truong D, Hogg K, Robinson WP Poh CF, Garnis C (2013) Global analysis of DNA methylation changes during progression of oral cancer, Oral Oncol, 49(11): 1033-42.

Towle R, Garnis C (2012). Methylation-mediated molecular dysregulation in clinical oral malignancy, J Oncol, 170172. (link)

Gorenchtein M, Poh CF, Saini R, Garnis C (2011). MicroRNAs in an Oral Cancer Context – from Basic Biology to Clinical Utility, J Dent Res, 91(5):440-6. (link)

Lockwood WW, Chari R, Coe BP, Thu KL, Garnis C, Malloff CA, Campbell J, Williams AC, Hwang D, Zhu CQ, Buys TP, Yee J, English JC, Macaulay C, Tsao MS, Gazdar AF, Minna JD, Lam S, Lam WL. (2010) Integrative genomic analyses identify BRF2 as a novel lineage-specific oncogene in lung squamous cell carcinoma. PLoS Med 7(7):e1000315. (link)

Tsui IF, Garnis C. (2010) Integrative molecular characterization of head and neck cancer cell model genomes. Head Neck 32(9):1143-60. (link)

Chari R, Thu KL, Wilson IM, Lockwood WW, Lonergan KM, Coe BP, Malloff CA, Gazdar AF, Lam S, Garnis C, Macaulay CE, Alvarez CE, Lam WL. (2010) Integrating the multiple dimensions of genomic and epigenomic landscapes of cancer. Cancer Metastasis Rev 29(1):73-93. (link)

Tsui IF, Garnis C, Poh CF. (2009) A dynamic oral cancer field: unraveling the underlying biology and its clinical implication. American Journal of Surgical Pathology 33(11):1732-8. (link)

Garnis C, Chari R, Buys TP, Zhang L, Ng RT, Rosin MP, Lam WL. (2009) Genomic imbalances in precancerous tissues signal oral cancer risk. Molecular Cancer 8:50. (link)

Tsui IF, Poh CF, Garnis C, Rosin MP, Zhang L, Lam WL. (2009) Multiple pathways in the FGF signaling network are frequently deregulated by gene amplification in oral dysplasias. International Journal of Cancer 125(9):2219-28. (link)

Garnis C, Lockwood WW, Vucic E, Ge Y, Girard L, Minna JD, Gazdar AF, Lam S, MacAulay C, Lam WL. (2006) High resolution analysis of non-small cell lung cancer cell lines by whole genome tiling path array CGH. International Journal of Cancer 118(6):1556-64. (link)

Baldwin C, Garnis C, Zhang L, Rosin MP, Lam WL (2006). Response to: Genomic analysis of tumors by array comparative genomic hybridization: more is better. Cancer Research 66:3955-3956. (link)

Garnis C, Davies JJ, Buys TPH, Tsao M, Lam S, MacAulay C, Lam WL. (2005) Chromosome 5p aberrations and glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor activation are early events in lung cancer. Oncogene 24:4806-12. (link)

Garnis C, Coe BP, MacAulay C, Lam WL. (2005) High-resolution array CGH increases heterogeneity tolerance in the analysis of clinical samples. Genomics 85:790-3. (link)

Garnis C, Campbell J, Davies JJ, MacAulay C, Lam S, Lam WL. (2005) Involvement of multiple developmental genes on chromosome 1p in lung tumorigenesis. Human Molecular Genetics 14:475-82. (link)

Baldwin C, Garnis C, Zhang L, Rosin MP, Lam WL. (2005) Multiple Microalterations Detected at High Frequency in Oral Cancer. Cancer Research 65:7561-7. (link)

Garnis C, Rosin MP, Zhang L, Lam WL. (2005) Alteration of AKAP220, an upstream component of the Rb pathway, in oral carcinogenesis. International Journal of Cancer 116:813-9. (link)

Coe BP, Henderson LJ, Garnis C, Tsao-MS, Gazdar A, Minna J, Lam S, MacAulay C, Lam WL. (2005) High resolution chromosome 5p array CGH analysis of small cell lung carcinoma cell lines. Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer 42:308-313. (link)

Garnis C, Buys TPH, Lam WL. (2004) Genetic alteration and gene expression modulation during cancer progression. Molecular Cancer 3:1-23. (link)

Garnis C, Coe BP, Ishkanian A, Zhang L, Rosin MP, Lam WL. (2004) Novel regions of amplification on 8q distinct from the MYC locus and frequently altered in oral dysplasia and cancer. Genes, Chromosomes and Cancer 39:93-8. (link)

Garnis C, Coe BP, Zhang L, Rosin MP, Lam WL. (2004) Overexpression of LRP12, a gene contained within an 8q22 amplicon identified by high-resolution array CGH analysis of oral squamous cell carcinomas. Oncogene 23:2582-6. (link)

Garnis C, Campbell J, Zhang L, Rosin MP, Lam WL. (2004) OCGR array: an oral cancer genomic regional array for comparative genomic hybridization analysis. Oral Oncology 40:511-9. (link)

Garnis C, MacAulay C, Lam S, Lam WL. (2004) Genetic alteration on 8q distinct from MYC in bronchial carcinoma in situ lesions. Lung Cancer 44:403-4. (link)

Garnis C, Baldwin C, Zhang L, Rosin MP, Lam WL. (2003) Use of complete coverage array comparative genomic hybridization to define copy number alterations on chromosome 3p in oral squamous cell carcinomas. Cancer Research 63:8582-5. (link)

Siwoski A, Ishkanian A, Garnis C, Zhang L, Rosin M, Lam WL. (2002) An efficient method for the assessment of DNA quality of archival microdissected specimens. Modern Pathology 15:889-92. (link)

Book Chapters, Encyclopedia Entries, and Non-refereed Articles

Garnis, C. (2007) Diagnostic methods of lung cancer and its subtypes by comparative genomic hybridization (Patent Review). Expert Opinion on Medical Diagnostics 1(4):541-544. (link)

Buys TPH, Wilson IM, Coe BP, Lee EHL, Kennett JY, Lockwood WW, Tsui IFL, Shadeo A, Chari R, Garnis C, Lam WL. ‘Detailed comparisons of cancer genomes’ in Comparative Genomics: Fundamental and Applied Perspectives. (2007) James R. Brown (ed.), CRC Press, Taylor and Francis, LLC. Boca Raton, FLA, USA (ISBN: 9780849392160). (link)

Garnis C, Lam WL. ‘Oral Cancer’ in Encyclopedia of Cancer (2nd Edition). (2009) Manfred Schwab (ed.), Springer Press.  (ISBN: 9783540368472). (link)